SUNBURY — Northumberland County Housing Authority has received its largest one-time state grant to fight blight.
At a press conference Friday at the county administration center, a ceremonial check for $750,000 was presented by state Sen. John R. Gordner (R-27) to Pat Mack, deputy director of the authority.
The money, from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), will be used to acquire and demolish or renovate up to 60 blighted and abandoned properties in the county. The money can also be used for removal and redevelopment of those properties, including the abatement of hazardous materials.
Gordner said the county has received $1.5 million in state grants over the past five years toward fighting blight, not counting the latest grant.
“This county has the greatest blight initiative in the state and serves as a model for other counties,” he said.
Gordner commended county commissioners and the housing authority for their successful efforts in fighting blight and particularly praised the county’s blight task force, established in 2012 and spearheaded by Edward Christiano, executive director of the housing authority.
The senator also thanked Gov. Tom Wolf for recognizing the housing authority’s good work and authorizing the release of the funds.
Mack thanked Gordner, the governor, the blight task force, the commissioners and municipalities for giving the authority the financial resources to fight blight.
“This is a team effort and we remain passionate about fighting blight in Northumberland County,” Mack said.
In announcing the grant, Wolf was quoted in a press release, “Northumberland County has developed a unique blight elimination strategy. This investment will support the ongoing blight elimination efforts in Northumberland County and will greatly increase the quality of life for residents.”
Other participants in Friday’s ceremony included state Reps. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108) and Kurt Masser (R-107), and county Commissioners Sam Schiccatano and Richard Shoch.
Both commissioners thanked the legislators for their efforts in obtaining funding and working with them in addressing other important issues facing the county, including the opioid crisis.
Masser added, “We’ve made significant strides in fighting blight and these funds will go a long way in addressing a serious need in the county. Blight is a cancer and this money will help us get rid of the cancer.”
Culver praised the county for setting the “gold standard” in fighting blight in the state and said the legislators, commissioners and housing authority form a “great partnership.”
Mack said the authority continues to focus on the construction of a five-unit apartment complex for veterans on a vacant lot next to the former Lapinski Lumber Company in Mount Carmel that will be similar to Phoenix Court Apartments in Atlas that opened last year. He said the demolition of the dilapidated former Shroyer Dress Factory in Shamokin also remains a priority.
The housing authority has worked with county and local governments to pool Community Development Block Grant funds to be used in the countywide fight against blight. The county commissioners also created a County Demolition Fund in September 2017 that was authorized by Act 152 of 2016. The two funding streams make up the bulk of the required local matching funds, which are required under the RACP program.
RACP is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects. RACP projects are authorized in the Redevelopment Assistance section of a Capital Budget Itemization Act, have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity. RACP projects are state-funded projects that cannot obtain primary funding under other state programs.
In a related matter, Mack said the housing authority was recently presented an “Award of Merit for Community Development” by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for the Phoenix Court Apartments project at a ceremony in San Francisco, California.