Buyer interested in vacant plot; Bartos, Hall clash at meeting
SHAMOKIN - The city may have a buyer for a vacant plot of land on East Independence Street.
A fire-damaged building that had stood at 320-322 E. Independence St. was knocked down by the city years ago. The demolition was funded with the use of state grant funds.
It's use was changed by a vote of city council Monday night from a designation as a vacant lot to a proposed business site, according to Lynn Dixson, community development director.
The change in designation will, among other things, allow a proper appraisal to gauge fair market value, she said. An appraisal was also approved by council.
The move does not change its zoning designation, believed to be commercial.
Interest has been expressed by someone to purchase and build on the lot. No further details were available.
Garth Hall, former city councilman, accused City Clerk Steve Bartos of circulating a voice recording of Hall from a council meeting to community members.
Bartos denied the allegation, said the recording of the meeting in question had not been released and that Hall was lying.
Hall would not reveal who allegedly received the recordings and asked that council follow suit and withhold the same. He accused Bartos of being a bully and of threatening to have him removed as a liaison on the project. He said if he were still on council, he would seek his resignation.
"Mr. Bartos' witch hunt ends with me. I don't allow anyone to live in my mind rent free," Hall said.
Bartos said the allegation about the tape was particularly "disturbing."
"I believe that the (voice recording) of the meeting you're referring to, that was never released to anybody, it was never requested. It hasn't been released by me. Basically that's untrue. That's an untrue statement," Bartos said.
"I have two people who are willing to testify that they received your voice mail," Hall said.
"What was sent out to my recollection was that if anyone wanted that, it would be made available. It was never sent out by email, not handed over, not ever," Bartos said. "Garth, you're the liar. ... He has his facts wrong."
Hall opposes the terms of a federal loan offered to the city for the renovation of the American Legion Building in the downtown.
U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered $2.8 million, repayable at 3.5 percent over 40 years. It would be in excess of $5 million when the loan matures.
He believes the current population of 7,000-plus, whom he said a large portion rely on entitlement programs, cannot bear the burden of the loan.
City council has not yet voted to accept the offer.
Funding sources had been pursued by Bartos and members of a building committee. A grant could not be secured, but USDA did accept Shamokin into a loan program.
Hall believes architectural drawings of a proposed renovation would have infringed on space already occupied by the Anthracite Heritage Museum, inferring that it was being forced out.
The Shamokin Street Playground is closed until spring, Police Chief Ed Griffiths said Monday.
Marcus McDowell, of 8 N. Seventh St., questioned council on why the playground was closed. Griffiths said he authorized its closure because of damage and that some kids "don't know how to act in there." He said playground equipment has been vandalized and defaced, making it unsuitable for younger children.
McDowell was directed to speak with the school district regarding truancy officers.
McDowell also told council members that two properties in his neighborhood remain a nuisance. One looks structurally unstable and another has trash spread about it. He was frustrated with what he believes is a lack of action on the city's part.
The homeowner with the trash had been cited, however the problem still exists, he said.
McDowell was critical of what he perceives as a lack of action by city officials.
Councilman Michael Snyder said the code office and police can issue citations for code violations, but it's up to the district judge to issue a judgement.
John Zanella, of 600 W. State St., asked about abandoned properties on his block.
He said kids are playing inside the properties, jumping from roof to roof. He told them to stay out but they hadn't heeded his warnings, he said.
The windows are busted out and the doors are wide open. Vermin have been seen coming and going, he said. He tried to tie the doors shut but they were kicked open, he said. When it's windy, he said the doors slam shut throughout the night causing further nuisance.
Zanella asked that council board up the top two floors of the properties.
Councilman William Strausser said the code office will be informed of Zanella's complaint and that he will ask that the street department board up the entry ways. He also asked Griffiths for an extra patrol in the area.
Mountainside Assembly of God's "Light the Night" will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31 on Sunbury Street;
Coal Township VFW Post 317 will replace the American flag at Market and Independence streets during a ceremony Nov. 11;
The Downtown Christmas event will be held Dec. 7.
An executive session was held from 7:30 to 7:47 p.m. for personnel matters. The meeting was adjourned directly after.