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Refusal of inspection in Uniontown stirs ire

| Thursday, July 8, 2010

A dispute erupted at Uniontown City Council's meeting Wednesday night regarding a proposed inspection of Fayette Bank Building, owned by Councilman Gary Gearing.

John R. Over Jr., president of K2 Engineering Inc. of Uniontown, the city's building-code official, told council that Gearing refused to allow him to inspect the entire building.

"We did try to get into the building on three separate occasions," Over said. "Mr. Gearing allowed me to inspect the common areas, but he would not allow me to see the entire building. I just want to have an opportunity to inspect the building. That's all I want to do."

After the meeting, Gearing said that Over serves as the city's building-code official, but he is not a building inspector.

In accordance with the International Property Maintenance Code, Gearing noted, Mark Pasquale has been hired to enforce the building code.

"This is clearly a problem with equality, because I'm not being treated the same as everyone else who owns a building in the city," Gearing said.

Over told council last night that he wants to inspect Fayette Bank Building because serious code violations and health and safety issues were found in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

"There are numerous electrical, fire and emergency-exit violations dating back to 2006," Over said. "I just want to make sure those violations no longer exist. I want to do what is right for the city. I want to work with legal counsel to get this issue resolved, if it becomes necessary."

Gearing disputed Over's claim, saying the previous building violations were not serious and that he corrected them immediately.

Council members also questioned why Fayette Bank Building is designated in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which means the owner is exempt from paying real estate taxes.

Gearing said any building owner in the city can apply for the designation.

"You're living in a bubble, Mr. Gearing," said Uniontown Mayor Ed Fike. "And you need to come out of it."

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