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Kittanning to demolish burned-out business

| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006

KITTANNING -- Borough council says when it comes to cleaning up the community it means business as it voted 7 to 1 to undertake the demolition of the remains of Jean Prifti's Pizza House at 233 South Jefferson St. which was destroyed by fire Jan. 23.

Council member Cindy Housley said Monday that council is obligated to the neighbors and residents of the community to take the appropriate action.

Council member Mary Piluso said action and not words is necessary because of continuing complaints of rats and snakes inhabiting the remains of the fire-damaged building.

"I've received several calls just recently," Piluso said. "One mother complained of rats reportedly coming from the building and wandering near her children's sand box."

The lone "no" vote was cast by Steve Atwood. He could not be reached for comment.

Borough codes enforcement officer Rick McMillen said another problem is mosquitoes breeding in stagnant pools of water that collect in the building's remains.

Council authorized solicitor Chase McClister to begin proceedings to file a lien against the property for the cost of the demolition, all legal costs involved, and costs and services of the codes officer accrued in the process of attempting to bring the property into compliance with health and safety issues since the January fire.

Council president Gerald Shuster said that council and borough officials have been "...more than sympathetic and fair," with the current owner, Jean Prifti. Shuster said Prifti has all but ignored attempts to rectify the problem while health and safety issues emanating from the partially destroyed building continue to grow.

Prifti's attorney, Jason Lewis, told council that while there had been an initial agreement with Dennis Swank, of Kittanning, to purchase the building and business before the fire, issues of disagreement arose between the two parties when Swank questioned the amount of insurance money that was paid by the Harleysville Insurance Company for the loss.

Swank said that there were no fewer than three dates to sign final documents and Prifti failed to attend all three meetings, even though she agreed to all the dates initially.

Although several legal issues remain unsettled between Prifti and Swank, Shuster said council felt the property was enough of a safety, health and community welfare issue that razing the remains of the structure must be done immediately.

McMillen said an asbestos abatement study was completed July 25 by Volz Environmental Services of Pittsburgh and no asbestos was found in the building. He said that council has been in contact with Perry "Butch" Farester of Farester Construction, Templeton, to begin demolition work.

"As far as I know, Perry Farester hasn't as yet confirmed that he will do the work, but if he should not be able to start in the next week or so then council will find another firm. Council indicated that it wants the building razed and all debris cleared before Sept. 1."

Neither Prifti, her attorney, nor Swank could be reached for comment.

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