Public-private partnership funds demolition of dilapidated homes in Atlas
ATLAS - A pair of dilapidated row homes on Saylor Street were knocked to the ground in less than 45 minutes Thursday.
Ferdinand Diminick used an excavator to tear through the blighted properties at 116-118 W. Saylor St. Working from the backyard, he punched the machine's bucket through walls and tore portions to the ground. When pieces were left hanging, he rotated the cab and swung the boom and arm to take down what was left.
Mount Carmel Township purchased the properties from the Northumberland County Tax Claims Bureau. It paid $7,750 of the $15,500 demolition cost, which included the teardown of a trailer to the rear of the properties.
The Northumberland County Housing Authority is funding the rest with a combined $18,000 in donations from four private donors - Sunbury Motors, FNB Bank, Susquehanna Bank and Swineford National Bank. The funds were split for the Atlas project and a project in Sunbury. The donors took advantage of a program, Neighborhood Assistance Program Tax Credits, that will provide them a 75 percent state tax credit.
When the project is completed, the township will look to market the vacant space, which includes a fourth small lot from a property demolished several years ago.
Edward Christiano, authority executive director, is hopeful other local businesses reach out to him and consider participating in the tax credit program, donating money toward blight remediation.
"The approval of these tax credits by (the Department of Community and Economic Development) continues the momentum to address the problem of blighted properties in a proactive way," he said. "We appreciate the financial support of the contributors and look forward to the demolition of additional blighted properties that are dragging down neighborhoods."
In May 2013, a $50,000 contribution from UNB Bank, Mount Carmel, to the tax credit program resulted in five eyesores being razed in Mount Carmel.
Cindy Confair, 51, watched from the backyard three doors away. She lives at 122 W. Saylor St. Her home of 45 years will remain standing and stay attached to 120 W. Saylor St., which appears as badly in need of demolition as the two that were knocked down.
Confair's was the only well-kept home of the four. The last neighbor to have lived in any of the row homes moved out four years ago. Another had been vacant at least eight years, and a third even longer than that.
It was bittersweet for Confair. She's glad to see the two homes gone, but wonders what will become of the third. She was told it may not hold out through the winter. More than that, she wonders what will become of her own home.
Water has leaked from 120 W. Saylor St. into her home, she said. Rats living next door have chewed through the walls and chomped on her electrical wiring. A contractor told her she and her daughter, Becky, 23, were lucky their home didn't catch fire. She can't get insurance for her home.
Confair, Christiano and Don Geary, township code officer, all repeated rough estimates of $20,000 to secure the foundation of Confair's home and add siding if the adjoining structure were demolished. Christiano empathized with Confair, saying he doesn't know what the answer is. The township could consider offering a buyout and demolish the remaining two row homes. It would open up the space further, perhaps offering more enticement for a potential buyer.
Confair said she's open to a buyout, but is worried that an offer from the township wouldn't be enough for a downpayment on a new home.
"I would move, I would, but they got to come up with the money," she said.