Ashley Officials Mull What To Do With A Crumbling Building

November 13, 2018
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Ashley Officials Mull What To Do With A Crumbling Building

ASHLEY — When stucco fell off the side of 29 N. Main St. into an adjacent parking lot on Saturday, Ashley borough officials knew they had a problem.

In fact, they knew the borough needed to do something about the vacant and condemned building even before Saturday’s incident, according to borough Manager Greg Gulick.

First, they had to make sure the building was not in danger of imminent collapse, Gulick said.

Fire and codes officials inspected the structure Saturday and determined it did not pose an immediate danger to public safety, said borough council President John Gibbons.

Officials blocked off access to the parking lot next to the building, in case more stucco or debris fell.

The question is what to do next — and all options pose practical problems, Gibbons said Monday.

“We are trying to come up with several options that would work,” he said.

One option would be for the borough to purchase the building — which recently drew no bids at a county tax sale auction — then demolish it. Borough officials are exploring that idea and will seek quotes on potential demolition work, Gibbons said.

But there is a serious challenge to overcome with that plan: The structure, built before modern fire safety codes were implemented, is effectively connected to the adjacent building at 31 N. Main St., with which it shares a common wall and stairwell.

Thus, the borough would likely need to purchase both buildings, then demolish both of them, to put an end to the problem, according to Gulick and Gibbons.

That would require reaching an agreement with the owner of 31 N. Main St., who does not live locally. A further complication is that two apartments in the building — which years ago housed the Ashley post office — had been rented out until recently. One tenant just moved out, while another will move out soon, Gulick said.

One other issue appears to have been solved. When borough officials first looked into acquiring 29 N. Main St., they found an IRS lien for about $600,000 attached to the property, Gibbons said.

Borough solicitor William Vinsko has worked on issues concerning the property and it appears that lien is no longer attached, according to Gibbons.

Vinsko on Monday said he could comment on specifics of the borough’s efforts to acquire the property, since other potential buyers could attempt to purchase it.

“We are in the process of acquiring the rights to it pending clear title,” Vinsko said.

After Saturday’s incident, the borough plans to expedite that process, he said.

Gibbons declined to estimate the total cost to purchase one or both buildings, followed by demolition work.

The borough will seek grant funding available to remediate blighted properties to help cover those costs, he said.

The issue of the crumbling building and what to do about it will likely arise at tonight’s meeting of Ashley borough council, according to Gibbons.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the borough municipal building, 49 W. Cemetery St.

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