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Connellsville Health Board to recommend demolition of 4 structures

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 10:35 a.m.

The Connellsville Health Board agreed on Monday night to begin the demolition process on four structures that were declared public nuisances.

The structures are at 132 E. Fairview Ave., 404½ Eliza St., 916 Aetna St. and 122 S. Pittsburgh St.

Tom Currey, city health officer, referred to 404½ Eliza St., which is owned by Richard Stewart, as “the cat house.”

In July, Currey said, he responded to the structure when he received complaints about cats.

“Mr. Stewart had issues with the SPCA,” Currey said. “SPCA employees were called to the building and removed two dogs and at least 34 cats from the structure.

“There are still some cats running through the structure that haven't been caught,” he added.

In September, Currey said citations for the structure's interior, weeds and garbage were issued against Stewart.

After Stewart failed to show up for court dates, Currey said, a Fayette County judge found him guilty and fined him $2,000.

“Stewart is a veteran, and I do feel sorry for him, but the situation at the structure is not acceptable,” Currey said.

Board President Dale Cadwallader asked Currey whether the house can be salvaged.

“You would need to replace a lot of boards in the house,” Currey said. “The structure is not ready to fall down, but the structure would have to be taken down to the studs to try to save the building. I'm sure the cat urine has soaked through the floor, and it would need to be replaced.”

Jack Swank owns the building at 132 E. Fairview Ave., which also is slated for demolition, Currey said.

“The wood is falling off the porch,” Currey said. “There is garbage and trash everywhere. The people who were renting the house cut down the weeds and put them in the attic and basement, which is a fire hazard.”

In June, Currey said 132 E. Fairview Ave. was sold at a tax sale. Before the new owners could take possession of the house, fire caused significant damage to the structure.

After the fire occurred, Currey, said a court battle took place.

“The new owners wanted the sale vacated, and the court approved their request,” he said. “In October, the ownership went back to Swank.”

On Oct. 31, Currey said, he sent a letter to Swank, indicating that the structure was “unsafe for human occupancy.”

“Mr. Swank came into the office and said he was going to fix the house,” Currey said.

Currey said 14 citations were issued against Swank, who paid $2,600 in fines.

Since that time, Currey said, three citations were filed against Swank.

“The structure is open. It's not boarded up,” Currey said. “Support beams are missing, and the house is leaning.”

A structure at 916 Aetna St. is owned by Paul Kruczkiewicz of Dunbar, who bought the house in August 2011.

Although Kruczkiewicz said he planned to repair the structure, Currey said, very little work has been completed.

Kruczkiewicz has 11 citations pending against him and faces $1,050 in unpaid fines, Currey said.

“Due to the lack of progress, I recommend that the structure be declared a public nuisance,” he said.

A structure at 122 S. Pittsburgh St., owned by Charles Osler, also is scheduled for demolition, according to Currey.

“Mr. Osler bought the property at a sheriff's sale,” Currey said. “He said he was going to repair the sidewalk, siding and repair holes in the structure, but the roof has collapsed. Two walls fell down, and the roof actually fell into the building. Mr. Osler put up a tarp, but it fell down, and snow and rain are going into the structure. No one is living there.”

Currey issued seven citations against Osler, who has paid $400 in fines.

“This is another structure that needs torn down,” Currey said.

In other business, Cadwallader was appointed health board president and Johanna Harden was named vice president.

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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