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Tarentum ordinance could target business code violations

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 5:09 p.m.
Tarentum, Pa.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
Tarentum, Pa.

Code violations continue to be a hot button issue in Tarentum.

Earlier this year, the borough introduced a new code enforcement initiative called “ Sweeps ,” where police officers make rounds throughout the borough to address code violations like high grass and garbage.

Now, council is looking to adopt an ordinance that would force borough businesses to clean up their properties or risk losing their business privilege license.

Council Vice President Erika Josefoski introduced the proposal during a recent council meeting.

It says: “Any business within the Borough of Tarentum who receives a violation warning(s) and fails to make the corrections within 10 days, will have their business privilege license revoked until the corrections are complete.”

Code enforcement Officer Chris Fabec said there are businesses along East Fourth and Fifth avenues that aren't maintaining their properties.

“One of them has apartments upstairs, and they take their garbage and they throw it out back,” Fabec said. “It's there for two weeks because they don't use our trash, they have their own. They don't clean it up.”

Fabec said he has cited those businesses, but that hasn't been working.

He said an ordinance would have “more backbone” to it than continuous citations because it would force business owners to fix code issues if they want to stay open.

“If they don't want to maintain, then they shouldn't have a license to operate,” Fabec said.

Solicitor David Regoli said he has to research what council is able to do legally.

“Anytime you want to go in and you want to revoke a license you have to make sure that the businesses have an opportunity to be heard and present a defense,” Regoli said. “I have to look and make sure that anything I do (won't) infringe on their rights.”

Gatto Cycle Shop President George Gatto said he likes the proposed ordinance, but disagrees with the time frame. He said he doesn't think 10 days is enough time for businesses to address code violations.

“If I had to get an electrician to fix a wire, if I had to get something on the roof fixed, it's going to take more than 10 days to get it done,” Gatto said. “I think if they would just give (businesses) more time, maybe give 30 days, maybe that would be better.”

Sweeps going well

The “Sweeps” initiative, which debuted in July , still is going strong, Fabec said. He said officers make rounds at least once a week and cover a ward each month.

“Some of the older residents have disagreements about it, but it's really been effective,” Fabec said.

Older residents who can't address code violations on their own can call the borough building for help, Fabec said.

He said Tarentum has an ordinance that requires snow be cleared from a sidewalk within 24 hours, and there are people who go out and shovel sidewalks for people who can't do it. He said the borough could do the same thing for code violations.

“Just because we give (you) a violation notice doesn't mean that we're going to automatically end up in court,” Fabec said. “If you call me and you're elderly, and you need some time or you need help, we're willing to do that.”

Residents in need of help can call the municipal building at 724-224-1818.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, mczebiniak@tribweb.com or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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