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Boswell eyesore eyed for demolition

January 16, 2019

Boswell Borough officials are partnering with their county counterparts to tear down a blighted building before it collapses like one along Morris Avenue

County officials are preparing to tear down a house at 425 Center St., which began to collapse in November. Borough officials said it needs to be demolished for health and safety reasons.

Steve Spochart, Somerset County Redevelopment Authority executive director, said officials are planning to use Community Development Block Grant funds the county received in 2014, which were allocated for demolitions.

“We have the money in hand,” he said. “It’s now a matter of do we do it as a standalone demo or incorporate two others with that.”

Borough officials have been working with the redevelopment authority to gain access to the site. Spochart said the work may be packaged with the demolition of two properties in Windber. Spochart said the work could start sometime in late February or March.

“We want to get it done as soon as possible, but some of this is weather dependent,” he said.

Spochart said the redevelopment authority has a “right of entry” agreement with the county commissioners that allows access to the property because of its deterioration, which includes the roof caving into the property. County records list Duane Howard as the owner, but Spochart said he has been deceased for a few years.

“That property was offered at tax sale, and even offered at judicial sale, but did not sell,” Spochart said.

A brick building, located near Main Street along Morris Avenue, fell down in May after months of deterioration. No one was injured, but the borough spent $48,572 for crews to demolish the dilapidated former bank building.

Spochart estimated tearing down the Center Street structure will cost up to $20,000.

Borough council members took control of the Morris Avenue property, which was originally owned by Jolee Properties. Officials are still seeking $50,000 for the property, which includes the cost of cleanup, demolition and legal fees.

While council President Mary Ann DeLuca had few details about the Center Street demolition at Monday’s meeting, she said that borough solicitor David Leake was working to gain control of the property.

“Once we get that deed, we can sell that property once it’s torn down,” she said.

There are still eight more buildings in the borough that need to be demolished because of health and safety concerns, but it is work the borough cannot afford. Council members originally estimated tearing one building down would cost roughly $12,000.

DeLuca said another problem the borough will face, besides finances, will be getting access to the other properties.

“Before you can tear another building down, you need the deed,” she said during the council meeting.

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