ShareThis Page

Westmoreland could raze blight by raising real-estate filing fees

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 4:45 p.m.
The remaining portion of the penthouse collapses as a crew from Dore & Associates work to demolish the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette on Feb. 24, 2016.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
The remaining portion of the penthouse collapses as a crew from Dore & Associates work to demolish the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette on Feb. 24, 2016.
The former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette collapses on March 2, 2016 after weeks of heavy demolition.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
The former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette collapses on March 2, 2016 after weeks of heavy demolition.

Home buyers and sellers in Westmoreland County will pay an extra $15 in filing fees under a plan set to be approved Thursday.

County commissioners expect to vote on instituting the new fee on deeds and mortgages docketed with the Recorder of Deeds office to finance a program to demolish blighted properties.

“There is a lot of need for this, and it's a good source of revenue to make places with blighted properties ready for redevelopment. It's a safety issue as well,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said Tuesday.

At least 22,000 deeds and mortgages will be filed in Westmoreland County next year, raising about $330,000 in 2018 for the demolition fund, Recorder of Deeds Tom Murphy estimated.

There are about 900 blighted properties in the 22 municipalities that participate in the county land bank, said April Kopas, executive director of Westmoreland's redevelopment authority. It is unclear how many structures throughout the county need to be demolished.

“There is no complete inventory for all 65 municipalities at this point,” Kopas wrote in an email. “The demolition fund would really help to address communities' needs to address the blight, stabilize neighborhoods and get properties back into productive use, so the redevelopment authority is very supportive of these resources.”

County officials said they will have three months to formulate a process for how the demolition money will be spent and which department will administer it.

The county, through the land bank and its industrial development corporation, has paid to demolish blighted property in recent years. The former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette was leveled last year to pay for a new commercial development that is in the planning stages. That $1 million demolition project was paid for from a series of state and federal grants.

The land bank in the past two years paid to knock down blighted buildings it owned but only in communities that have participated in that program.

Officials conceded Tuesday they didn't have any specifics about how a newly created demolition fund would operate or how buildings targeted for removal would be identified.

“We'll have 90 days to decide how it is used,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.

If approved, the additional $15 fee would begin to be charged in December, Murphy said. That will coincide with a new $4.75 fee assessed on all documents filed in the Recorder of Deeds office as part of a state program to pay for upgrades to the computer program used by the Pennsylvania court system.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.