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Allegheny

Millvale family seeking new home on flat land after landslide ruins 2 houses

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 3:48 p.m.
Millvale officials have condemned three houses on Spring Street because of a landslide.
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Millvale officials have condemned three houses on Spring Street because of a landslide.
Jackie Geis was forced to leave her home on Spring Street in Millvale because of a landslide.
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Jackie Geis was forced to leave her home on Spring Street in Millvale because of a landslide.
Pressure from a landslide is pushing this house on Spring Street in Millvale off its foundation.
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Pressure from a landslide is pushing this house on Spring Street in Millvale off its foundation.

Jackie Geis is dreaming of a home in the country, far away from hills and landslides that have plagued the Pittsburgh region this year.

Geis, 53, and her family were forced to leave their two homes on Millvale's Spring Street in April because of a slide. The houses will have to be demolished because of a second slide this week.

Geis said she hopes to find property that's affordable and on flat land in Armstrong County or Butler County.

“I'm looking forward to the future,” she said. “When I say country, I don't mean 100 acres or anything like that. I still want to be able to use a lawn mower, and not a riding mower. I can't afford that.”

Officials plan to demolish four houses on Spring Street, three of which are in the path of the April slide, and the fourth because it was abandoned decades ago, according to borough police.

Amy Rockwell, Millvale's manager, said the Catholic Parish Cemeteries Association owns the hillside that slid and has agreed to tear down the houses. St. Nicholas Cemetery is on top of the hill behind the houses.

The borough has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday to consider a petition that would allow the association to access the property, she said. Demolition would proceed at some point after the hearing.

“They'll tear the houses down, they'll do some work to stabilize the hillside and I know they were working on a long-term (stabilization) plan with our engineers,” Rockwell said.

The cemeteries association could not be reached for comment.

Geis and family members own two of the homes. She lived in one of them with her 13-year-old son. Her stepfather, Rich Mitesser, lived in the other. The family is staying in a third house they own next to the damaged houses.

“On March 31, the borough came up and told us to pack a bag and be ready to go at any moment because there's a landslide behind your house,” Geis said. “Now, we're just waiting.”

Homeowners insurance doesn't cover landslides, and Geis said she hopes the cemeteries association or the state will help financially.

“I'm moving to the country,” Geis said. “We have to find something we can buy if we get some money.”

Geis said she inherited her home from her mother, who died in 2012. Geis has lived on the quiet street for most of her life.

“I played in those woods every day until I was about 13, barefoot usually,” she said. “Pretty much that's 53 years in a nutshell. All of my past is being erased because of this.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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