Northumberland County reverses on blight house, gives deed back for Shamokin house
SUNBURY - Sunbury resident Keith Musser is once again responsible for a dilapidated house in Shamokin he said he mistakenly purchased two years ago at a county judicial sale.
Northumberland County Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Richard Shoch rescinded Tuesday a motion passed by Shoch and Commissioner Vinny Clausi at a Nov. 7 meeting that deeded back to the county the rundown property at 624 W. Mulberry St.
Bridy abstained on the original vote, claiming it set a dangerous precedent.
Clausi, who is in Memphis, Tenn., for his construction business, did not participate in Tuesday's meeting.
Efforts to contact Musser, who also was not in attendance, were unsuccessful. Shoch said he spoke to Musser and that he understood the county's reason for reversing course.
Musser approached the commissioners seeking a solution for the property, purchased in
August 2011 for approximately $1,300.
Musser, 59, said he did not realize the property had been scheduled for demolition by the City of Shamokin. He said it would cost him approximately $100,000 to renovate the double home or between $12,000 and $17,000 to raze it, and that he can't afford either option.
Musser, a general contractor, said he has been fined $300 per day for code violations under a city nuisance ordinance because of the poor condition of the house.
The Sunbury man previously said he recognizes the potential hazard the structure poses but said he's "caught in a terrible, terrible situation."
Musser said he had already looked over a property listed for sale that he wanted to buy and planned to repair it at his leisure. He sent a friend to the sale in his place because he had another commitment. The addresses got mixed up and instead of the intended property, the friend bought 624 W. Mulberry St. The first time he entered it, Musser said he looked up through the second floor and into the third floor.
The rear of the home collapsed Sept. 22, bringing Shamokin Fire Bureau personnel to the scene. The third floor is completely exposed at the rear of the building with portions of the exterior wall missing and the roof sagging. There have been reports of raccoons and skunks inside.
Jan Nestico, director of the county tax claims bureau, said her office wasn't notified that the property was scheduled for demolition and that Musser didn't bring the issue to her attention until a year after he bought it.
Nestico previously said all potential buyers are encouraged to do their homework when considering a purchase. They can't enter a property, but they can look it over from the outside.
At the Nov. 7 meeting, Clausi claimed Musser was "railroaded" by the city and county because he wasn't informed the city had planned to tear it down and that the county shouldn't have made such a property available for sale.
Clausi and Shoch then agreed that Musser should be granted dispensation and released from all liability, although he would not be reimbursed the $1,300 .
Shamokin Code Officer Rick Bozza confirmed that 624 W. Mulberry St. was a "high priority" property targeted for demolition. It was one of many blighted properties included on a list as part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, he said, but it was never specifically scheduled for demolition.
Musser is scheduled to appear before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III of Shamokin for a summary trial at 9:15 a.m. Nov. 25 on five citations filed by Bozza and police Cpl. Bryan Primerano.
In other business at Tuesday's meeting:
- County chief clerk Gary Steffen announced that an annual inspection conducted July 2 by the state Department of Corrections shows Northumberland County Prison achieved 100 percent compliance on essential regulations and 97.8 percent on non-essential regulations.
- Commissioners agreed to lease a copier system for the domestic relations department at a cost of $108 per month for 60 months from Leaf Capital Funding LLC.
- John Kopp, of Sunbury, was appointed as the farmer director to a four-year term, beginning Jan. 1, to the Northumberland County Conservation District Board. David Crowl of Elysburg was appointed as the public director to a four-year term and Shoch was appointed as the commissioner representative to a one-year term to the board.
- Crowl also was appointed to the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) Authority for a five-year term, beginning Jan. 1.
- County engineer Charles Hopta Jr. was appointed to the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Mitigation Board for a one-year term, effective Jan. 1.