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Glassport will raze ravaged dwelling

Eric Slagle | Daily News Glassport residents Jerry and Joanne Wirbicki stand by steel plate and boards covering a hole in the asphalt in front of their Cypress Alley home.
Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 3:46 a.m.
 

Glassport will use eminent domain to demolish a home damaged by storm-related erosion in July.

Council unanimously approved an ordinance clearing the way for the legal action at a meeting on Tuesday.

The property located along the 500 block of Cypress Way, belongs to Jerry and Joanne Wirbicki, who are opposed to the plan.

“I don't want to go,” said Jerry Wirbicki outside the meeting. “This is where I've been forever.”

The foundation of the Wirbickis' home was damaged by runoff from a broken sewer line during a week of heavy storms in July. The borough filled a large hole in the street within a week of the first round of storms, but the repair was washed away by storms a week later.

Jerry Wirbicki said the borough should have done more to repair the line. He said he believes the borough is moving too quickly to tear down the house, which has been in his family for generations.

“I want to know why it has been deemed unfixable,” he said.

Borough officials said their engineer and legal counsel have recommended the house be torn down.

Solicitor Gary Matta said it is an unfortunate situation but there is no way the problematic sewer line can be repaired with the house where it is.

“It was built on top of a sewer line,” Matta said.

He said the Wirbickis will receive “fair and just compensation” and he is working with their attorney, Scott Lautner, to reach a settlement.

Matta said the borough already has obtained an appraisal. He would not disclose the value of the home but said it is more than $15,000. Joanne Wirbicki said that was the amount the borough offered.

“It will be more than that,” Matta said.

He said Lautner will be able to submit a value to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, which will have the ultimate say.

Matta said the Wirbickis will be able to make a claim for additional losses and expenses incurred as a result of the ordeal.

Jerry Wirbicki said his insurance company has not yet reimbursed him for his losses.

Matta said the eminent domain claim will be filed in court by the end of the week.

Mayor Michael Evanovich said repair work on the sewer line will begin as soon as the house is leveled.

“We have to redo that system,” the mayor said. “We need to get in there.”

Councilman Thomas Bradley said the borough's sewer lines, which handle sanitary and storm water runoff, have been cleared of debris from last month. He said the borough used sewer cleaning equipment borrowed from Clairton on seven occasions in the past several weeks to inspect and clear lines.

Bradley said he will attend a rain garden and management seminar in Etna on Sept. 7 in the hope it will provide new information about dealing with storm water issues that can be put to use in Glassport.

It is sponsored by 3 Rivers Wet Weather.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1957, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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