EAST UNION TOWNSHIP, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A township in Schuylkill County took matters into their own hands to knock down a blighted property.
Although most people were happy to get rid of the eyesore, not everyone agrees with a seemingly lack of transparency to get it done. A shift in leadership in East Union means some citizens are ecstatic with immediate results. Others are pumping the brakes and have concerns.
Pam Hartz wasn’t shy about telling East Union Township supervisors how she felt about her elected officials using taxpayer money to get rid of a Brandonville property. She says the township acted on its own, spending $17,500 to clean up the neighborhood.
“They’re saying now that it was an emergency, that they had to take down these buildings and none of this was brought up in a meeting,” Hartz said.
But some citizens felt it was worth the money. Damaged by a 2016 fire, neighbors like Aaron Lorah have been vocal about razing the blighted property. He says between odors, stray animals, and a dilapidated structure, the property was ready to be cleaned up. And with a recent shift in municipal leadership, including a new code enforcer and a new supervisor, the project to tear it down got the green light.
“He said he was going to get it done and within a month of being in office, it got torn down,” Lorah said.
Township supervisor and board vice chair Kyle Mummey was the incident commander for the fire years ago and says it was a safety risk and the previous administration refused to do anything about it.
“We used our powers under the international property maintenance code to secure emergency bidding and we mitigated the violation very quickly,” Mummey said.
The recently appointed code enforcement officer, Tony Harris, made that emergency designation and cited imminent danger to the public. He believes it was a matter of time before the structure came crashing down.
“There’s a school bus stop up the street. A lot of people like to walk up and down Main Boulevard and we were just afraid that if it fell into the street or fell into the tree into Route 924, that would be a significant danger,” Harris said.
There is one possible catch. A gas station was once on part of the land, meaning there may be underground tanks on the property and that could be a hurdle for township officials hoping to recoup the money it took to tear down the structures.
That emergency status for the property means the township was not required to put the clearing project up for a bid, but officials say they did anyway in good faith.