Council urged to better address West Newton eyesores
West Newton officials need to work harder to get the town's eyesore properties cleaned up to improve the look of the town, two North Fifth Street women told borough council Monday.
“We see junk and garbage in people's yards. People are breaking into empty houses. They are dumping grounds for garbage ... and a haven for rats and snakes,” said Arlene Tomich.
The borough needs to do a better job to force owners to clean up the properties where building materials and other debris are scattered, said Dolores Lovett. Those properties devalue the neighborhood, Lovett said.
West Newton officials defended their efforts to clean up the town's eyesore properties that have overgrown grass, debris scattered through yards and are in poor condition, saying the borough is following the proper legal procedures to address the problems.
“I don't know what else we can do legally. People are cited and they just don't seem to care,” said Councilman Chris Luikart.
Council President George Molovich said that police Chief Gary Indof last month cited the owners of 13 properties last month for various ordinance violations, 12 of which were for failure to cut vegetation. The vegetation was cut on four of those properties, while there is still time for the other property owners to respond to the citation.
The police chief had cited 16 properties in July for ordinance violations, Molovich said.
Indof also reported that he received a warrant for the arrest of the occupant who had lived at 224 S. Eighth St. Indof stated that he believes she has moved to Monessen.
“These matters take time,” Indof said, noting that the borough's ordinance gives property owners 10 days to resolve a problem before the citation. If the problem is not corrected, a citation can be filed with District Judge Charles Christner in West Newton.
Councilman Adam Paterline said he has made it his “mission” to work on these problems and much has been done.
“There is a lot of room for improvement. It is not easy,” Paterline said.
The borough is already maintaining more than 30 properties, which involves mowing the lawns. A $6,000 lien has been placed against one property, said Pamela Humenik, borough secretary.
Solicitor Charles Wade said the problem is caused by the downturn in the economy. When the borough and the region's economy was in better shape and people were working, residents had the money to take care of their properties, Wade said.
“We are a poor town. We don't have a large tax base,” Wade said.
The borough does not have the money to fix all of those private properties not being properly maintained. It has to monitor its spending, “otherwise, we will be bankrupt like Detroit,” Wade said.
One of the stumbling blocks to improving the properties is the absentee owners who live outside the town and have their real estate taxes paid through their mortgage companies, Humenik said.
Some of the companies that hold mortgages on West Newton properties have responded and maintained those properties, Humenik said.
In other business, council told Lou Ann Petronick, manager of the West Newton senior citizen center, that senior citizens using the center can park in the borough parking lot off Water Street during inclement weather to avoid sidewalks that might not be cleared of snow.
Council also told Al Perry, owner of Perry Scrap Metals of Railroad Street, that a representative from the borough would inspect the work that a contractor did on his property when it installed a sewer line through his business.
Perry has maintained Independent Enterprises Co. of Oakdale failed to restore the area to the condition it was in prior to the trench being dug for the sewer line. Perry told council he wanted the ground where the trench was dug to be made solid.
In other matters, council:
• Was told that it will not owe any money in 2014 to the police pension fund, but must make a payment of at least $14,934 into the non-uniformed employees pension fund by Dec. 31, 2014.
• Approved a resolution to receive $12,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development for the installation of new decorative street lamps along Main Street in the downtown area. The borough already received $40,200 from the state for the project, which involves installing two of the new street lamps in every block designated for the lamps.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-836-5252.