Shamokin receives $110K grant to tear down, fix up blighted properties
SHAMOKIN - Seven eyesore properties along some of the city's main streets are being targeted either for demolition or repair through the use of state grant funding.
Shamokin received $110,374 in a Keystone Communities grant fund, its share of $500,000 awarded to Northumberland County Housing Authority for blight remediation.
Four of the properties are along Bear Valley Avenue: 650 and 664 are proposed to be renovated and 667 and 684 are proposed to be torn down, according to code officer Rick Bozza. Also eyed for demolition are 249 S. Market St., 401 S. Market St., formerly Al's Corner Pizza, as well as 821 Mount Carmel St. (Route 61) at the east end near the Coal Township border.
Bozza and city Cpl. Bryan Primerano identified the properties Thursday, keying on the city's "gateway" roads, and turned the list over for review by Edward Christiano, authority executive director. The county authority is administering the grant.
The two city officials also identified additional properties to potentially be demolished using $73,800 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds - 1-3 S. First St., 14-16 E. Willow St., 133-135 S. Shamokin St., 405 Spurzheim St. and 726 E. Sunbury St. The city will administer projects using CDBG money.
"It's a start to revitalize the city. We're going to do the best we can with the funding and with help from the county," Bozza said.
Christiano said city officials know best which properties to target.
"They know where the problem areas are," he said.
Whether torn down or fixed up, Christiano said the properties can be sold or potentially turned into public "green areas."
Exactly how many of the identified properties will be addressed won't be known until project estimates and bid specifications are formulated. Additional costs such as for engineering and environmental review, and potentially acquisition through eminent domain, must be factored.
Bozza said work could start as soon as late March, and Christiano described that time line as aggressive.
The Northumberland County Housing Authority used pledges of CDBG funding from five communities - Coal Township, Mount Carmel, Shamokin, Sunbury and Ralpho Township - as leverage in applying for the grant award. Additional matching funds through the county's CDBG program as well as the county housing trust fund brings the total to more than $1 million, according to an authority press release issued last month.
The Keystone funds must be used by June 30, 2015.
The effort to address blighted properties began in earnest in fall 2011 when state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) convened a blight summit in Coal Township. Out of that, county commissioners agreed to appoint a task force to work with the authority to develop strategies for addressing blighted properties. The task force included state Sen. John Gordner (R-27), Masser, state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108) and representatives from the public and private sectors. The task force met three times in 2012 and issued its report in August 2012.