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Connellsville housing ordinance could result in charges

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

Property owners in Connellsville could face criminal charges for violating property codes if the Connellsville Health Board and city council decide to adopt a municipal housing code avoidance ordinance.

City health officer Tom Currey presented details of the ordinance to board members who attended Monday night's meeting.

“This could be used as a tool to help the city deal with property owners who will not comply with municipal housing codes,” Currey said. “The property owners could face criminal charges (misdemeanors) for failing to comply with the ordinance.”

The board could not take any action on Monday because of a lack of a quorum. Board member Lucy King and city council member Marilyn Weaver were the only members present.

Currey said a property owner could face the crime of municipal housing code avoidance under certain circumstances.

Those circumstances would include:

• The person has been convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of the same subsection of a municipal housing code for the same property.

• The violation has been continual and uncorrected.

• The violation poses a threat to the public's safety or property, and no reasonable attempt has been made by the person to correct the violation.

Currey said the municipal housing code avoidance could constitute a second-degree misdemeanor when the offense is a fourth conviction of a violation of the same subsection under the municipal code.

When five or more convictions of a violation occur under a municipal housing code relating to the same property, Currey said violators could face first-degree misdemeanors.

Currey said he learned about the municipal housing code avoidance ordinance at a recent training session.

“The city would have to go through the magistrate's office and then the Fayette County District Attorney's office to have violators found guilty,” he said. “This is something that could really help Connellsville because we have so many problems with violators who will not comply with our housing codes.”

In other business, Currey told health board members that a serious problem exists at 237 N. First St. where a large number of tires are being stored in a building.

The building is owned by Ralph Bosley and Cheryl Casini but being rented out. Curry identified the tenant as James A. Cunningham.

“The tenant, James A. Cunningham, is really the one who is causing the problem,” Currey said. “The city has the right to purchase the building if it goes up for sale. The city needs to do something to get those tires out of the building because it is becoming a serious safety hazard. “My goal is to have Mr. Cunningham to get those tires out of there as soon as possible.”

The health board also discussed other dilapidated structures that need to be repaired or demolished.

They include 541 Morrell Ave., owned by DRO IP Ltd., a bank based in Dallas; 405 N. Pittsburgh St. owned by John Midkiff; 1414 Maple St. owned by James and Kathleen Ritch; and 117 Witter Ave., owned by Harold Eddings and Donna Wynn.

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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