Coal Township gets $126K to fight blight
COAL TOWNSHIP - Sixteen structures are being targeted for demolition with state and federal grant funding in the east and west ends of the township.
Coal Township received $125,944 in a Keystone Communities grant fund, the largest share appropriated to five area communities that sought state funds through a Northumberland County Housing Authority grant application.
The township received the largest share because it committed the largest match of $84,092.35 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.
"Every penny will be used for demolition," said Craig Fetterman, chairman of the Coal Township Board of Commissioners, of the combined $210,036.35.
In the Edgewood section, seven structures are targeted in an area between Independence and Wood streets (north and south boundaries) and Ash and Robin streets (east and west boundaries), six structures between Chestnut and State streets and Locust and Owl streets, and three structures in the Marshalton section between Tioga and Hemlock streets and Sherman and Meade streets.
Rob Slaby, township manager, identified the properties. He said the list could be amended on review by township commissioners. Also, at 16 structures, it's a bit of a wish list.
"I would be completely surprised if we got to do all of these," Slaby said.
Some of the structures are privately owned, but the majority are behind on property taxes and on file with Northumberland County Tax Claims. Fetterman said it's expected that legal struggles could ensue in some cases where the township will attempt property acquisition.
The vacant lots will be available for sale, and Fetterman and Slaby expect some will prove attractive to neighboring property owners or to someone looking to build a new home or garage.
The county housing authority applied for $500,000. A Dec. 13 letter from the authority states there will be "two pots of funds" available through the Keystone grant. The first totals $346,000 for demolition activities. In addition to the township's share, Shamokin received $110,374, Sunbury $44,980, Mount Carmel $34,600 and Ralpho Township $30,102.
Fetterman was among local and state officials who worked to address blighted properties in fall 2011 when state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) hosted a blight summit in Coal Township. Out of that, county commissioners agreed to appoint a task force to work with the authority to develop strategies for addressing blighted properties.
Coal Township adopted its current drop ticket ordinance to address nuisance violations, and Shamokin followed suit. Next came the grant funding.
"The blight (task force) so far has been a good thing," Fetterman said.
One goal, perhaps a far away goal at that, is to purchase an excavator for Coal Township, he said. The township realizes significant savings after having purchased its own street paver and having township employees do that work, he said.
"We feel we could tear them down ourself and could tear down twice as many houses for the same amount of money," Fetterman said. "In no time we'd be caught up with the blight in the township."