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WCVI structure continues to pose safety hazards to Connellsville residents

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 6:42 a.m.

Connellsville Health Board members Monday expressed concerns that the former WCVI building located at 131-139 E. Crawford Ave. continues to pose health and safety hazards to city residents.

The building, which had been owned by Fayette County, has been sold to Shane O'Brien of Phoenix at a cost of $700, according to Tom Currey, the city's health and code enforcement officer.

“The new owner has until Sept. 30 to register the building and take possession,” Currey said. “The city has to wait until after the Sept. 30 deadline to object to the sale. The city can then try to take possession of the building. The municipality and the school district will have a chance to object to the sale of the building.

“The building is in danger of falling down,” he added. “But no one knows how long it will take before it comes down.”

If fire breaks out in the building, the local fire departments have been notified not to send volunteer firefighters inside the building because it is too dangerous, Currey said.

“The fire departments have been told to watch the building burn down,” he said. “It's not safe for anyone to go inside.”

Currey said the building was declared unsafe for human habitation in March 2010 when a business was operating from the dilapidated structure.

“The building has been vacant since that time,” Currey said.

Currey and health board members expressed concerns about out-of-state companies buying vacant structures in Connellsville.

“These companies buy the structures in tax sales and other procedures,” he said. “They plan to fix up the buildings, but nothing ever happens. The buildings are then declared public nuisances, and the city is responsible for taking action to tear the buildings down. We have no idea why these companies are buying dilapidated buildings and houses in Connellsville. It doesn't make sense, and it hurts the city.”

In addition to the WCVI building, Currey said three other buildings in the city are scheduled for demolition. They include 916 Aetna St., 1018-1020 Aetna St. and 108-110 Gallatin Ave.

“These are dangerous structures that need to be demolished,” he said.

Currey also gave health board members an update on the “cat house” located at 404½ Eliza St., owned by Richard Stewart. The house was declared unsafe for human habitation last year after more than 30 cats were removed from the structure.

“The bank foreclosed on the property,” Currey said. “The bank sent people to the property, and they are trying to clean it out. We're going to give them some time. We have received phone calls from the neighbors saying that the windows are open and a horrible smell is coming from the house. We're going to contact the bank to let them know they can't open the windows.”

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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