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New Kensington targets 7 houses for demolition in October

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The house at 860 Seventh St., where a New Kensington man was injured while police say he was trying to blow up the structure on Sept. 12, 2013, is a now vacant lot after it was demolished the week after the alleged bombing. The week before the incident, council scheduled it for demolition. It had been condemned in March. Photo taken Sept. 23, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
New Kensington ambulance crews transport Gregory Domanski, 50, after police say he was injured by a homemade bomb that exploded at 860 Seventh St., the house next to his own, in New Kensington on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. Police charged Domanski with arson for allegedly setting the bomb.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Demolition of a house at 616 Fourth Ave. in New Kensington is underway on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
A house at 1293 Meade Ave. in New Kensington is on the demolition list after being severely damaged by a fallen tree, as shown on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
A house at 1293 Meade Ave. in New Kensington is on the demolition list after being severely damaged by a fallen tree, as shown on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.

In recent weeks, New Kensington cleared away more than a dozen blighted buildings — including a Seventh Street house that was involved in an explosion earlier this month.

The city's redevelopment authority contracted with Ford City-based Infinity Crane and Excavating to tear down 16 residential properties throughout the city.

Kim McAfoose, the authority's executive director, said the authority will open contractors' bids for another round of demolitions on seven more properties in October.

The houses are among two dozen that city council condemned in March.

At the time, Code Enforcement Officer Pat McGrath detailed an array of problems at each property, which for many included leaky roofs, rotting porches, broken windows and doors, overgrown weeds, piled-up garbage and rodent infestations.

Some also had collapsing foundations or floors.

“These are the worst of the worst,” McGrath said then, noting he'd started with a list of about 70 blighted properties and singled out the ones posing the biggest safety concerns.

Included in the recent demolitions was 860 Seventh St., an abandoned house that police said was the target of a homemade bomb on Sept. 12. Police charged Gregory Domanski, 50, of neighboring 858 Seventh St. with arson for allegedly setting off a pipe bomb near the vacant house's natural gas line.

Police said Domanski had complained about the vacant house, which was not seriously damaged in the explosion. Domanski was injured but has since been released from the hospital.

McAfoose said the redevelopment authority board on Sept. 4, a week before the explosion, agreed to pay an additional $9,800 to add the Seventh Street house to an existing $91,200 demolition contract with Infinity.

McAfoose said moving up the razing of the Seventh Street house was unrelated to Domanski's concerns, of which she was unaware.

The house was slated for inclusion with the second round of demolitions that are awaiting bids. Since most of the second-round properties need surveying and possible abatement of asbestos or other environmental issues that the Seventh Street house did not require, the board opted to add it to the first wave of demolitions, McAfoose said.

The Seventh Street house had prior fire damage and was uninhabitable with its collapsing roof and porch, as well as rodents, McGrath had said in March. It was torn down last week.

McAfoose said the demolition work on the first round of houses is almost complete; contractually, Infinity must be done by Oct. 31.

The authority uses a portion of the city's allotment of federal Community Development Block Grant money for acquisition and demolition of blighted properties.

Included in the next round will be a duplex just down the block on Seventh at 844-46. The city has owned that house since 2004, when it was bought from Westmoreland County's repository of unsold properties.

Also to be demolished is 1253 Kenneth Ave., a house that police said was operating as a speakeasy in 2005 when masked gunmen burst into the basement and shot three people, including the homeowner at the time, Alan “Goat” Wilson. The three victims survived; the gunmen weren't found.

The first round of demolition included 282 Ridge Ave. at the corner of McCargo Street, a house that burned in a 2011 arson.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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