Unity Township officials are hopeful a proposed ordinance change will cut down on blight in parts of the municipality.
Solicitor Gary Falatovich said at Thursday’s supervisors meeting that officials recently met with a number of property owners concerned with the condition of certain areas of the township. Supervisor Mike O’Barto noted that most of the problems — such as trash and junk in yards — lie in former coal mining communities like Whitney and Marguerite, along with sections of Lloydsville and Pleasant Unity.
“We have a lot of properties in Unity Township that are blighted,” O’Barto said. “These are some of our oldest communities, the communities that made (the township) what it is today.”
Falatovich said the amendments to the township’s nuisance buildings and properties ordinance would be “minor,” but would allow for the ability to issue a $50 fine to offenders. The township currently does not have a fine system in place for homeowners or landlords with blighted properties, O’Barto said.
“If a person did not pay the $50 fine and clean up the property in a time period set for the citation, then it would result in other avenues like a trip (to the Magisterial District Judge’s office),” Falatovich said. “We would sort of treat it like we do the burning ordinance now, where people have the ability to a pay a fine and avoid a trip to the magistrate.”
“This would get their attention,” Falatovich said of a fine system.
Code enforcement officer Steve Yanchik, in a response to a question asked by O’Barto during Thursday’s meeting, said no township residents have been fined by a Magisterial District Judge over the past three years. Yanchik said many of the individuals with blighted properties are repeat offenders.
“When you have people throwing garbage all over their yard, they’re devaluing (other homeowners’ properties),” O’Barto said, adding that many of the offenders are linked to rental properties. “I don’t know if the landlords aren’t paying attention or are just happy to get a check for rent ... a lot of these people clean up and five months later, they’re back to where they were before.”
The supervisors voted Thursday to advertise the ordinance amendment and to hold a public hearing before next month’s supervisors meeting. Supervisors Chairman John Mylant hopes the changes will be in place for community cleanups in the spring.
“These are communities we can’t forget about,” O’Barto said of the areas with blight.
“The last thing I want to do is fine anybody, but we have to take this approach at this time. Otherwise, you’re going to have a township that’s full of garbage and that’s not fair to the people who take care of their properties and who have made an investment in Unity Township.”
In other business, township engineer Dan Schmitt of Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. said work on the township’s new public works garage has reached the “move-in” phase.
Two of the township’s road districts are currently moving into the facility while another district will temporarily remain in one of the rented garages public works employees have used for several years. Schmitt said the two road districts began moving into the new garage last week.
Work on the township’s new public works building began in December 2018. The previous building was destroyed by a September 2017 arson.
“We’ve taken occupancy of the building and we’re moving our equipment in,” Schmitt told the supervisors. “There are punch list (items) for all the contracts that remain. They are dotting I’s and crossing T’s, and some of the items are weather-related that have to be done in the spring in regards to restoration.”
When asked by O’Barto whether the total project was over or under budget, Schmitt said it was over but didn’t have figures on hand.
“I think we need to know that within the next few months,” O’Barto said.
Schmitt said the bulk of the project’s change orders were covered through an insurance policy tied to the construction of the new garage. He noted the only ones that may not be covered were change orders associated with code upgrades, such as the building’s sprinkler system, which couldn’t exceed an allotted amount.
Also related to the public works garage, the supervisors approved these pay estimates: $35,387.50 to R&B Mechanical, $5,285.79 to Bob Biter Electrical Enterprises Inc., $4,206,60 to Newman Plumbing and $7,469.23 to Mongiovi & Son.
Schmitt noted that the township is holding a 5% retainer on the project’s mechanical contract, along with 2.5% each on the electrical, plumbing and sprinkler system contracts.
Supervisors also approved three change orders: For a deduction of $1,417.10 to general contractor Walter Mucci Construction Co. Inc. tied to power costs associated with the project, a change order of $4,410 to R&B Mechanical for restroom fans and related items, and a change order of $3,460 to R&B Mechanical for the installation of an emergency boiler stop station outside the new garage’s mechanical room. Schmitt said the latter change order was needed following an inspection conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Also Thursday, the supervisors appointed Tom Schultheis Jr. as the township’s new emergency management coordinator. He replaces longtime coordinator Pete Tenerowicz, who resigned last month after holding the position for more than 30 years.
Schultheis is a member of the Lloydsville Volunteer Fire Department and serves as the station’s water rescue lieutenant. He was among four applicants for the emergency management coordinator post, which includes an annual $3,300 retainer.
The supervisors also appointed Chris Kondrich, a member of the Marguerite Volunteer Fire Department, to an unpaid deputy emergency management coordinator position.
In other business, the supervisors approved:
- A combined $61,838.50 contract for diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline for 2020 with Glassmere Fuel, which was the lowest of two bids the township received;
- To advertise a minor amendment to the township’s road ordinance to deal with discharges of rain or surface water from properties onto township roadways, which Falatovich said has led to road issues in the past;
- Re-approval, because the 90-day period has elapsed, for Skilken Gold’s Sheetz site plan;
- An ordinance related to James Mickinak’s request to vacate an alley located on Second Avenue.