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Jeannette City Council looks at garbage collection, blighted properties

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Before heading into an executive discussion to talk about personnel issues with the help of the state-appointed advisor, Jeannette City Council briefly talked about putting out a bid to outsource garbage collection and creating a program to actively recoup money spent on demolition of dilapidated structures throughout the city.

Mike Foreman, the local government specialist with the state Department of Community and Economic Development who helped the city navigate the Act 47 Early Intervention Program is continuing to work with the city to avoid Jeannette being taken over by the state. He was on hand Monday night to discuss personnel issues related to the city's ongoing financial issues.

Councilman Mark Levander asked Foreman to assist in putting together a bid package for the possible outsourcing of the city's garbage collection. Levander also asked Foreman to look into any potential grant money the city could obtain as part of that process.

Foreman also spoke up during a conversation about the demolition of various dilapidated structures throughout the city.

Diana Reitz, community development coordinator, opened four bids Monday night for the demolition of seven properties that are vacant and hazardous. The bids ranged from $59,600 to $88,400 to demolish buildings on East Gaskill Avenue, North Third Street, Scott Avenue, Division Street, Cuyler Avenue, North Fourth Street and North First Street.

There are four other properties on the list — on Lafferty Street, Chestnut Street, North Third Street and Lowry Avenue — that Reitz plans to put out to bid for demolition soon.

Levander asked Reitz if the city could create a program that would utilize the money meant for demolition of the four additional properties to offer potential buyers grant funds to build new structures or to improve the lots that are left vacant by demolition throughout town.

Levander said his concern was twofold. First, he is concerned about leaving holes throughout the city where buildings once stood and secondly he wants to make those properties taxable again as a way to recoup some of the funds spent on demolition.

Reitz said the properties that are demolished are always liened in an attempt by the city to get its money back. She said Levander's idea is worth exploring and could possibly work with the city's Redevelopment Authority to market such properties for sale.

Foreman encouraged city council to look at this idea in the context of a bigger picture.

“In respect of how to attack these issues (of blight) it's economic development. Look at what tools you have to address these issues that are like a cancer in the community you need to get rid of,” said Foreman. “It takes the effort of public and private partnerships. Communities are successful at it when they make that partnership. “It's something I can certainly help with as a resource and a facilitator. It can be an incremental approach, but it needs to be a concerted and focused effort.”

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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