SHAMOKIN — City officials plan to go after owners of blighted properties through eminent domain procedures.

On Monday night, Shamokin City Council agreed to enter into a cooperative agreement with Northumberland County Housing Authority to fight blight by acquiring properties through eminent domain with the assistance of the Sunbury law firm Apfelbaum-Kula. Once the properties are acquired through the court system, they can be demolished or remodeled.

Councilman Scott Roughton, director of public safety, said the City of Sunbury has successfully used the eminent domain tactic over the years to alleviate blight.

He said Shamokin is targeting three blighted properties through eminent domain after receiving no response from the owners, who have been fined and charged with causing a public nuisance.

After the meeting, Roughton said, “These properties are unsafe structures that are causing problems for neighbors and lowering property values for citizens who properly maintain their homes.”

Voting in favor of the agreement were Roughton, Mayor John Brown and council members Charlie Verano, Barbara Moyer and Dan McGaw.

Outside bar seating

After several minutes of debate, council unanimously voted in favor of allowing Covered Bridge Brewhaus LLC, 506 N. Eighth St., to have seating outside its establishment during business hours from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays.

After McGaw questioned several potential issues about the sidewalk seating and serving alcohol outside, Roughton pointed out that only a few seats would be outside the business.

Roughton said nobody on council has had any issues with outside seating in front of The Dining Room at Sweet Tooth Cafe on East Independence Street.

“No one batted an eye when Freda (Williams) added outside seating,” Roughton said. Williams is the owner of The Dining Room at Sweet Tooth Cafe.

Later in the meeting, professional engineer and architect Michael Catino told council that outside seating at The Dining Room should be prohibited because it violates a city zoning ordinance. He said the sidewalk is public property and any outside seating should require a permit, as suggested earlier in the meeting by Amanda Curran, co-owner of the Ale House in the downtown district.

Brown said Williams informed him that she was given permission by a prior city council to add tables and chairs outside her restaurant and ice cream shop.

Verano, Moyer and current controller David Kinder, all of whom served on a previous city council, said they don’t recall Williams ever being granted permission by council to have seating outside the establishment.

Pensions approved

In other business, council accepted the pension benefit calculations for recently retired Cpl. Jarrod Scandle and Patrolman Nathan Rhodes, as provided by Girard Pension LLC.

Shamokin Administrator Robert Slaby said Scandle will start receiving $2,542.81 per month beginning Oct. 1, 2023. Rhodes will receive $2,320.85 per month starting Feb. 1, 2022.

Other business

Council granted permission to Citizens for a Better Community to hold curbside donation collections to help defray the cost of the July 6 fireworks display, which also was approved. The rain date for the fireworks is July 7. The display will kick off at 9:40 p.m.

Council accepted a $5,000 grant from the 2019 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. The mayor, whose wife, Denise, applied for the grant, said cigarette receptacles will be installed in the business district with the grant money.

City officials agreed to enter into an agreement with Central Susquehanna Opportunities to operate the Fresh Food Express program with assistance from Great Dane employees.

McGaw said the program will provide fruit and vegetables to low-income families at Claude Kehler Community Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Friday, starting this Friday.

Council agreed to send a letter of support to the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) to confirm the city’s commitment with AOAA toward permanent city access for AOAA riders.

When Bill Allen questioned council about how often the AOAA riders would be granted access to the city, Brown said he hopes it will be once a month. Allen said he believes the city would require permission from PennDOT to conduct the rides.

Brown said the AOAA plans to send the riders from its site on top of Burnside Mountain through the woods into the Fifth Ward of the city and have them come out on a dirt path on Terrace Avenue behind the Lawton Shroyer Memorial Swimming Pool.

Council granted permission to the Shamokin-Coal Township Youth Group and local volunteers to use Claude Kehler Community Park for a youth fair from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 27, with a rain date of July 28, with activities beginning at 11 a.m.

On the recommendation of Shamokin Treasurer and Tax Collector Brenda Scandle, council agreed to open a bank account for blight income.

Council granted Slaby permission to file an appeal with the county assessment office to have Madison Court Apartments reassessed.

Council donated a single season swim pass to Shamokin Area cheerleaders for their annual bingo.

Brown appointed Kathy Vetovich to the city redevelopment authority to fill the expired term of Tony Getchey.

Former councilman Gerald Bogetti said a trash problem at 189-191 E. Dewart St. is causing a serious health hazard in the area. He said the trash, which has been at the site for more than a year, has attracted numerous rodents and insects.

Code enforcement officer Rick Bozza said Gars Rentals, which owns the property, installed a dumpster at the site Monday, which should help alleviate the problem.

Judy Allen, who was representing a property owner at 14-16 N. Market St., and landlord/property manager Robert Gilligbauer said warning letters issued by Bozza to property managers regarding issues with tenants are vague and don’t specify what the nuisances are that need to be corrected.

Allen also pointed out that getting tenants evicted from properties is very costly for landlords.

Joseph Leschinskie, who offered his assistance to council in various areas, said he would like to see changes made to the landlord/tenant ordinance. He complained that the mayor often chooses a select group of people to serve on multiple boards when a vacancy occurs.

Moyer read a letter of appreciation from the family of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and Shamokin area native Stanley Coveleski for the city rededicating a monument and unveiling a new memorial bench in his honor at Legacy Park on Market Street.

Verano said he received a complaint from a property owner on South Rock Street who claims his property was damaged during a recent project conducted by Aqua Pa. Verano referred all complaints about potential property damage to the water company.

McGaw announced that the Lawton Shroyer Memorial Swimming Pool will open for the season at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Prior to the meeting, Lynn Dixson, director of community development for the city, conducted a second hearing regarding the proposed use of Community Development Block Grant funds for fiscal year 2019.

She said the allocation amount has not yet been released by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, but the city expects to receive $296,249, which is the amount received last year.

No public input or discussion by council members was offered at the hearing.

She said the first public hearing was held May 13.

The funds will be used as follows:

Administration, $53,325; clearance, $72,877; streets, $125,047; codes, $5,000, and emergency rescue vehicle (last payment), $40,000.

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