State officials take tour in Schuylkill County to address blighted property issue


(WBRE/ WYOU)- Schuyllkill County leaders want to put the word out, the Skook is making a comeback.
    Today state officials joined up with local and county officials to take a county tour.

Local, county and state officials are teaming up.

Their goal? Strengthen Schuylkill County communities.

Today leaders focused on blighted properties.

“Making people believe that we’re worth the investment is part of the process and we are worth the investment.” Rick Vilello, Deputy Secretary of Community and Economic Development said.

There are blighted properties like this throughout Schuylkill County. But community members believe if they can turn those properties into more livable homes, it will drive people in and boost the economy.

That is where the Restore Pennsylvania proposal comes in. It’s a $4.5 billion project. It  would provide more financial resources for local communities, eventually allowing them to acquire and demolish blighted properties.

After that the transformation process can begin.

“We need people to move into the area and to move into the town…to get it back up and vibrant,” Pat Mullins, land bank board member said.

“It’s not one side or the other. It is everyone working together to take care and make our area even better than it is,” George Halcovage, Schuylkill County Chairman said.

funding for Restore Pennsylvania would come from a natural gas severance tax, which currently isn’t on the books.

Commissioners say this county is a great place to live work, and play.  They believe fixing up these blighted properties will bring young people back.

Some of the county’s best and brightest leave for school, and never come back.

“We need to make sure that they go out, get an education, come back here and raise a family and again to carry on that baton even farther,” Gary Hess, Schuylkill County commissioner said.

Schuylkill County commissioners also received a $1.4 million grant for restoration. They say it helped but there still much more work to be done. 

The group toured Ashland, Frackville, Mahanoy City and Shenadoah.

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