Dubbs relents, signs over property to Kulpmont
MOUNT CARMEL - Kulpmont Borough is now the owner of David D. Dubbs' debris pile and property at 916 Chestnut St., but the former owner isn't happy about it.
In a move that eliminated the citations and fines against him, Dubbs signed a deed over to the borough for the property, which was destroyed in a Jan. 28 fire that also consumed three other buildings.
Dubbs looked frustrated in a payment determination hearing Thursday, after a conference with Northumberland County Special Conflicts Counsel Sue Schwartz, who sat with him before Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones.
Jones asked Dubbs if he has signed the deed.
"With the understanding that the citations and fines will be dropped?" Dubbs asked.
"Yes," borough solicitor William Cole said.
Jones asked about the $3,900 lien on the property that Kulpmont had put on when Dubbs' home was demolished, and Cole said the borough would remove that as well.
The judge asked Dubbs if there was anything further. Dubbs didn't say anything in court, but had a lot to say afterward.
"I didn't know that extortion and blackmail were legal in Pennsylvania, but I guess they are," he said.
Dubbs showed a copy of the state constitution, with two sections highlighted in the first article, on the declaration of rights of the public.
The two sections read: "All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness," and, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishments inflicted."
Since July, Dubbs had been cited daily for failure to clean up the debris pile, but the 60-year-old said he had no money or insurance to do so, and did not want to give up the property for $1.
After he was found guilty of the violations, the fines imposed ranged from $300 in the beginning to $1,000 on each citation. The total reached $85,608 after he was found guilty of 92 violations.
Safety was concern
At a break in the conference with Schwartz, Dubbs said that he was going to be given a choice: sign the deed over or face a 30-day jail sentence for each citation - some 7.5 years.
"It's free room and board," he joked at one point, but did sign over the property.
While Dubbs claims Cole "went against everything he is supposed to represent with the Commonwealth," the solicitor sees it differently.
"All we wanted to do was make the community safe," he said following the proceedings. "We are glad this situation is finally resolved."
Clean by Christmas?
Kulpmont Mayor Myron Turlis said borough officials will be getting quotes for hauling away the debris. If prices come in under $10,000, the work can start immediately, but above that amount, the borough will have to go through a formal bidding process.
"We are hoping to have it all cleaned up by Christmas," Turlis said.
When asked if anything of value found in the rubble would be returned to Dubbs, Turlis said that's OK with him.
"I'm glad that the whole ordeal is over, but I do feel sorry for Mr. Dubbs that he lost everything," Turlis said. "It's putting an end to the tragedy of that fire almost a year ago, that displaced four homeowners and others have had to deal with the smell and the mess since then."
What next with land?
Turlis couldn't speculate what will happen to the property now that it is in borough hands.
"We had one neighbor that offered to plant flowers on the site, if we got it cleaned up," Turlis said. "But really, that is going to be decided by the new council and mayor coming in January."