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Abandoned Dormont home funding unsettled

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Dormont council will decide next month how to pay for improvements to an abandoned home the borough took over through a little-used state law, but the contractor doing the work wants to make more improvements than borough officials seem willing to fund.

Late last year, Dormont petitioned the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to appoint a “conservator” for abandoned houses in the 1400 block of Dormont Avenue and the 2700 block of Broadway Avenue. Dormont and a contractor would take over the properties, pay to have them fixed up, then resell them.

The court agreed, and the borough selected Mt. Lebanon-based contractor Keith Buono to do the renovations.

“We are in the final steps,” Buono said. “I'm waiting until the next meeting for them to release the funds. It's getting close, I think.”

But Buono estimated it would cost $200,000 to bring the Broadway Avenue property back up to code and sellable condition, so now the plan is to demolish that building for about $25,000 and sell the land, he said.

“It's a shame, because that was one of the first houses here,” said Council President Bill McCartney. He said council would get the final estimates and vote on the spending at its meeting June 2.

“We had to, in order to do the renovations, get the market values of the properties so the renovations are consistent with what the market will bear,” said borough solicitor John Rushford. “We don't want to go beyond what we're able to recover.”

State law doesn't allow the borough to keep any profits from reselling the properties, but it doesn't want to take a loss on them, either, Rushford said.

For the Dormont Avenue house, which was divided into apartments, Buono said his plans for new kitchens, bathrooms and siding were put on hold in favor of $45,000 worth of repairs and replacement for the roof, gutters, deck and porch roof.

Jeff Naftal, borough manager, said the staff's main interest was getting the house to a point where it could sell, and many similar houses in the borough go for about $150,000.

The rest of the interior improvements would be up to the buyers, he said, so the borough would not be at risk of losing money if the house didn't sell.

Buono remained confident the properties would sell once they're back on the market, if only because he'd like to bid on them himself. The Dormont Avenue house could use an additional $45,000 of work, he said, and he'd like to build a pair of $350,000 townhouses on the Broadway Avenue parcel..

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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