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West Newton plots heading to land bank

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

West Newton council took actions on Monday that will facilitate the demolition of two vacant and blighted North Second Street houses and an old barn, with the hope that the properties will eventually return to tax rolls.

Council agreed to a request from the Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau to release its liens against the property at 201 N. Second St., which will allow the property to be acquired by the newly formed county land bank, said Pamela Humenik, borough secretary.

The borough is owed $2,756 for grass cutting and various maintenance on the property, which is owned by Richard J. Keller Sr. of Yukon, according to Westmoreland County tax assessment records.

“What difference does it make if it is $1 million or $1. We aren't going to get it anyhow,” Councilman Michael Ulish said of the loss of money.

In a related matter, council approved donating property containing an abandoned building and barn at 203. N. Second St. to the land bank.

The borough acquired the property from Daniel A. and Lisa M. Dressel for $1 on May 21, 2013, according to documents in the Westmoreland County Recorder of Deeds office.

Borough officials said they have been trying for years to acquire the abandoned property.

The Yough School District and Westmoreland County also will have to agree to relinquish their tax claims to the back taxes, Humenik said. The school board approved participating in the county's land bank program.

In another property matter, the borough still has not resolved the matter of reacquiring the historic John C. Plummer House at 131 S. Water Street, from the Mon Valley Initiative, a Homestead-based community development organization.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources earlier this year told the borough it did not have the right to sell the building to the organization in August 2011 because a state Project 70 grant prohibited the borough from selling the property without prior state approval.

Council said they would have to wait until they confer with Charles Wade, borough solicitor, who did not attend Monday's meeting.

The Mon Valley Initiative had informed the borough last month that it “invested a great deal of money” — about $30,000 — into the Plummer House with remodeling, new windows, facade and marketing the property.

The Mon Valley Initiative had said it would pay the state between $18,000 and $20,000, which it estimated would be the value of the $1,250 state grant the borough used in 1968 to buy the structure.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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