RANSHAW - Robert Wagner probably didn't need to do anything to improve his status as a good neighbor in this Coal Township village.

Nonetheless, on Friday he made his community pride and concern for safety quite clear through his own pocketbook by tearing down an abandoned, dilapidated, four-story apartment building next door.

"I decided enough was enough and we were going to give it a decent burial," Wagner said as he watched the crew he hired from Ferdinand Diminick Contracting, Danville, tear away at the structure with an excavator from the back yard of the property. Friends and neighbors gathered to watch the long-time eyesore come down.

It's a case of taking the blight fight into his own hands.

'Proud of him'

Wagner, who lives at 445 Main St., purchased the property at 439-441 Main St. at the June 13 Northumberland County judicial sale for $1,700. Wagner noted the cost to purchase the property was not even a tenth of what it cost to tear it down. He received estimates ranging from $15,000 to $27,000. Wagner went with Ferdinand Diminick Contracting, which gave him the $15,000 estimate. When all is said and done, it will cost a little more than that to backfill and fix the property.

The building has been vacant for approximately six years.

Kathey Seid, of 104 Clay St., was invited by Wagner to look at the work.

"I'm proud of him; he takes pride in the community," Seid said. "It is going to make a nice lot for him."

Wagner, who had no competition for the property at the judicial sale, told his wife, Lahoma, that they could "either buy it and tear it down or move."

"I polled the neighborhood and they all felt they would benefit by having it torn down," Wagner said.

Naturally, his biggest fear was fire in the abandoned building; his well-kept home is only a few feet away. Wagner has chased people out of the building numerous times over the years. Even when it was last occupied, the building had only electric heat and the tenants used kerosene and salamander heaters to keep warm, creating a potential fire hazard.

Peace of mind

For his part, Wagner has some mixed emotions about seeing the building go. He laments the passing of another old structure that, in its prime, was quite nice. Wagner actually lived in an apartment at that address from 1973 to 1979 before purchasing his current home in 1979, where he and his wife raised three children.

"I don't get as much pleasure out of this as peace of mind. This is a nice neighborhood and a good place to raise kids," he said. "The neighborhood is more like a family."

The lot at 439-441 came with two small garages that Wagner is keeping and renovating.

As for his plans for his soon-to-be empty lot, he would one day like to put a garage there, but his savings are down because of the project.

"I like to mow grass, so I will plant grass for the time being," he said.