Monsour site sealed off after suspicious fire
Two entry points trespassers accessed at the former Monsour Medical Center site to set a fire late Sunday afternoon were sealed off Monday.
“Situations like this where fires are being set will continue while the building is in its current state,” said Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.
The deteriorated structures will be checked by the group's staff more frequently in light of the blaze in a loading dock area in an effort to ward off vandals, Rigone said.
A state police fire marshal ruled the fire was intentionally set. The investigator could not be reached Monday afternoon.
Damage was estimated at about $1,100.
The former hospital along Route 30 in Jeannette is slated for demolition and redevelopment. However, that work can't begin until liens of up to $3.5 million held by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and the Internal Revenue Service are resolved. The county's land bank purchased the property for $15,712 at a free-and-clear judicial sale in October.
The City of Jeannette spent about $20,000 in grant funds to seal the site earlier this year, because the abandoned hospital, which officials call a danger to the public and an eyesore, has attracted vandals, arsonists and trespassers. Open windows and doors were blocked off, and other barricades and deterrents were erected at that time, city Solicitor Scott Avolio said.
“People will continue to find a way in there,” he said.
The county doesn't want to invest much more money than that into securing the structure, Rigone said.
Sunday's fire was reported at 5:33 p.m. Fire officials said an overhead door to the loading dock area was forced open, and debris and furniture were set on fire. The flames moved up a wall to the roof.
Rigone said a second entry point at the site was discovered Monday.
Founded by the four Monsour brothers in the 1950s, the hospital fell into disrepair and failed a series of state inspections before it was ordered to close in 2006.
Local officials have struggled to deal with the blighted property since then as members of the board of directors have either died or moved. No owners, creditors or lien holders objected to the free-and-clear sale.
The planned demolition and redevelopment is expected to cost about $2 million. Funds from several sources have been committed to the project.
But until the liens are resolved, work can't begin.
“As long as that place stands, it'll attract these kind of things to happen,” Jeannette Mayor Richard Jacobelli said Monday. “We need to have that hospital removed just for the safety purpose.”
Avolio noted that firefighters and police are put in danger when they investigate incidents there.
“Productive dialogue” with the federal lienholders needs to start, Rigone said.
The county commissioners will be asked later this month to approve an engineering contract for the site remediation and demolition.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724- 837-5374 or email@example.com.