Blight fight 'victory' for Coal Township
SUNBURY - Coal Township government registered a "victory" in court Monday when a property owner was fined $1,000 by a county judge for the conditions of two blighted properties.
Ricky E. Walter, 50, of 314 N. Rock St., Shamokin, pleaded guilty to three summary counts of hazardous structure and one summary count each of dilapidation of property and faulty weather protection.
Judge Charles H. Saylor fined Walter, who must also pay court costs, for the condition of 914 W. Pine St. and 500 Webster St., which is the former St. Anthony's Parochial School building in Ranshaw.
He's ordered to pay $300 by Monday and $100 monthly until the fines and costs are paid off.
Ongoing code issue
Walter failed to pay taxes on the old school building and it was remanded to upset sale by the county last fall, after the counts were filed against him. No one bought it.
The Ranshaw property has been an ongoing code issue for the past decade, Petrovich told the court. He later told Saylor the property is in worse condition now than at the time the citations were filed.
"No repairs have been made," he said during the summary appeals hearing.
While Walter said 914 W. Pine St. also was "up for taxes," the county tax claims office had no record of that being the case.
Both properties had previously been listed by the township on its "Wall of Shame," a collection of problem properties listed with photos on the township website.
Walter took a deal offered by Rosini, agreeing to plead guilty to the five counts and have 15 others dismissed.
Same counts, four times
Chris Petrovich, Coal Township code officer, filed the same five counts against Walter on four separate occasions between July 17 and 24 as part of a ramped-up enforcement effort on property owners Coal Township officials deemed repeat offenders.
Walter was originally found guilty on all 20 citations by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III, of Shamokin, and appealed the convictions to county court.
He has another opportunity to appeal, but told Saylor he had no plans to do so.
His ex-wife, Marcella, of 872 W. Pine St., Coal Township, is facing the same counts for the same properties. A scheduled December hearing before Gembic was continued.
More to come?
Rob Slaby, township manager, called the guilty plea a "victory." Acknowledging that the amount of fines were lessened with the plea, Slaby said it may not be the last time the township seeks citations against Ricky Walter.
Slaby said he'd confer with township commissioners and Vince Rovito, the solicitor for both the township and county tax claims, about pursuing further court action. At question is whether or not Walter could be held liable for the Ranshaw property since it was put up for upset sale.
"He's still the owner and we may actually go after him again on additional charges because it's an ongoing problem," Slaby said.