It’s long-awaited and great news that the old Shroyer dress factory that takes up a full city block in Shamokin will begin coming down this week.
For neighbors it’s especially important. They’ve had to live with the fear of damage to life and limb for far too long. There was also risk of loss of electricity, as happened on April 16, 2017 — Easter Day — when a portion of the factory wall toppled and tore down power lines. And then there’s the impact of this monumental example of blight on the community at-large.
But all that will begin to improve as early as Monday when demolition begins.
Similarly, there is progress in Kulpmont, where borough council members have been aggressive in seeking a solution for the abandoned — and asbestos-filled — J.H. and C.K. Eagle Silk Mill along Route 61. Of immediate concern in this case are the two smoke stacks that loom precariously above the neighborhood and would crush multiple homes should they, God forbid, ever topple.
The fact that the EPA has stepped in at council’s urging and has a plan that could see removal start there soon, too, makes this double-whammy of blight remediation among the top developments of the year.
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All that is the good news. The bad news, of course, is what we’ve pointed out before: It will take at least $3.1 million combined in public money to bring down these eyesores. It’s just the latest example of the “average taxpayer” paying the check for someone else’s lack of responsibility.
That said, however, the state government has made progress on revamping blight laws to save public money and hold irresponsible owners accountable. In June, House Bill 653, for which local state Rep. Kurt Masser was the prime sponsor, was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf. It reduces the timeframe for foreclosure on abandoned and vacant properties, speeding up the process to reduce decay and the depletion of municipal resources.
Among the bills that will hopefully be addressed next session include those in which the “merry-go-round” of the county tax sale process, as Masser has called it — where new owners seeking cheap real estate also fall short on payments, restarting the tax sale process — will be addressed. Both mills addressed here have been part of this never-ending circle of tax trouble.
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The outlay of public money is unfortunate, yet it is wise. Despite the significant role both the Shroyer and Eagle mills played in the heyday of the local garment industry, we’ll be happy to see them hit the ground.