Shamokin PA

Others should follow lead on blight fight

Officials from Coal Township and Shamokin celebrated a big moment Monday in the fight against blight.

The final steps in a long process to place eight blighted properties in the township and city into conservatorship were completed. With that, the “Kolody” eyesores will be razed by early 2016.

Municipal officials take plenty of heat for not addressing blight; they should receive similar heaps of praise for this success story.

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Conservatorship has been created as a viable solution for municipalities to use in eliminating long-time eyesores. Through the courts, permission is granted for a municipality to take control of properties to address deplorable conditions. A court can approve an abatement program that can involve demolition or repair, and when the work is done, the municipality returns to court to decide the fate of the properties.

In this case, they will likely be sold to adjoining landowners, even if they are not the highest bidders, as the Conservatorship Act favors sales to a buyer who will not let the property fall back into disrepair.

For the original owners to be involved in future ownership, they would have to pay the municipalities for the cost of the demolitions and— no doubt — face the ire of neighbors exasperated by their inconsideration.

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As part of Monday’s celebration, Ed Christiano, county housing authority director, and Pat Mack, former county planning director, were recognized by township commissioners for their efforts in obtaining grant money to fund the legal battle and demolition. It speaks to the role the Northumberland County Blight Task Force has played in addressing the issue.

The task force is helping county municipalities make use of a growing arsenal of new and improved laws that address blight. That was the cry we heard at The News- Item’s “Blight Fight” Business Roundtable more than seven years ago — give us laws with more teeth.

Conservatorship, as exemplified by the developments in the Kolody case, has some bite. Officials in other municipalities should use it to address their blight issues, knowing it may be a long road, but one that ends with a quality of life improvement for neighbors of blight and the community at large.