Former Shamokin councilman suggests city flips blighted properties
SHAMOKIN - A former city councilman told current council members that a new approach is needed to deal with blighted properties.
Gerald Bogetti, a former two-term councilman, said Monday he and all prior council members are to blame for not addressing blight over the years. But he said if the current council doesn't become proactive, they'll be responsible, too.
The city is pursuing demolition of blighted properties through a grant program in conjunction with the county housing authority. Rick Bozza, code officer, and Cpl. Bryan Primerano have also increased code enforcement since last fall.
But Bogetti said the city should look into purchasing abandoned and foreclosed properties before they fall into complete disrepair, paying for renovations and offering them for sale. He said several thousand dollars invested could yield a greater return, compared to tens of thousands for a demolition project that leaves behind an empty lot.
Banks have a vested interest in recouping money from foreclosures and could be viable partners with the city, he said.
Bogetti estimated Shamokin should be collecting $1.5 million in property taxes compared to less than $800,000 realized last year. New builds are unlikely since the city's real estate tax is maxed out at 30 mills, he said.
Given the city's current finances, Shamokin doesn't have the money to pay for such ventures, Mayor William D. Milbrand said. Bogetti suggested Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds received annually, but Milbrand said they are largely tied up at present.
City Clerk Robert Slaby responded to Bogetti's assertion that council lacks a plan for financial recovery, saying the city is working with the state through the Act 47 program to do just that. But Bogetti was skeptical.
Of 28 municipalities accepted into the program, 21 remain in Act 47 status, and some for more than two decades.
The city's Lawton W. Shroyer Memorial Swimming Pool generated $36,703.52 in revenue as of Monday, Moyer said.
Daily passes totaled $12,987.50, season passes $6,458, concessions $14,592.53, rentals $2,105.41, and Learn to Swim Program $560.
The city sold season passes this summer for June and July only, reducing the price by about 33 percent. In the past, August was also included, but spotty attendance figures spurred council to make the change.
Revenue is on pace to surpass the approximate $39,000 generated in 2013. The facility could stay open as late as Labor Day Weekend depending on the weather, but there is no definitive closing date as of yet.
Last year, council bought a new pump for $55,700. A new diving board was purchased this year for $3,614.50. Expenses were offset by $6,000 in donations from Lower Anthracite Regional Recreation Committee and Shamokin's West End Fire Co.
Tim Vincent and Sol Bidding asked council to consider paying liability insurance to allow the return of the court's community service program.
The men operate the program in Coal Township, and had done the same in Shamokin until in was discontinued in 2012.
Vincent estimated the cost for insurance at $500. In 2012, he said the program cleaned up 68 abandoned properties at least twice, and in some cases as many as five times. An estimated $87,000 in labor was saved as a result, he estimated, noting that it also freed up the city street department to tend to other jobs.
Council voted to pay $1 plus recording fees to purchase 724 E. Sunbury St., 709-711 and 715 N. Shamokin St. from the Northumberland County Tax Claim Bureau.
Coal City Revitalization, FC Sounds, Sinister Kings Motorcycle Club and community volunteers were given permission to use Claude Kehler Community Park for a benefit event for Cory Thompson, a national guardsman injured in a motorcycle accident, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 27.
Dave Spotts was permitted to promote a concert series in summer 2015 at the park.
An old police vehicle will be sold for scrap.
City engineer Mike Brinkash was named project consultant and Grebenick and Associates as landscape architectural subcontractor for the pending renovation project at Kehler Park.