KELLY’S WORLD: You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up
The city Licensing, Inspections and Permits Department file on PSN Realty is 6 inches thick and weighs more than 15 pounds.
It’s like “Moby Dick,” except the whale never gets harpooned.
The city recently added to the page count with two rounds of warning letters informing PSN owner Ken Bond that he is in violation of the rental registration ordinance. Renting unregistered properties is illegal, and the city gave Bond 10 business days to rectify the situation and pay the applicable fees and fines.
The first round of letters went out April 30, six days after my first column on the city’s biggest garbage fee deadbeat. Bond owes more than a quarter million dollars in delinquent city, school district and county taxes and fees.
The second round was sent May 1, a day after neighborhood association leaders pressed city council to demand emergency action on a pair of Bond’s worst properties. LIP department Director Pat Hinton told me city inspectors tried to ensure Bond couldn’t ignore the letters by posting them on the front doors of his illegal rental properties.
The tactic drew an immediate response — from panicked tenants.
“Some of his tenants freaked out,” Hinton said. “Some of them said they called Bond and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I took care of it.’ ”
The Ken Bond revealed in the documents clearly sees the city as a paper tiger. Most of the mountain of paper the city has on PSN Realty can’t be called correspondence, which by definition requires an exchange of information. Bond treats certified letters like junk mail.
There are more than a few in the file. When Bond did deign to respond, it was with a gall you have to read to believe.
Served in February 2017 with a demolition notice on 444-446 Wheeler Ave., Bond responded with an email in which he suggested the city demolish other buildings he owned but deemed unworthy of development. He called 444-446 a “spectacular 3-4 unit multifamily building awaiting renovation.”
“With Scranton becoming more of a ‘meds and eds’ community, the demand for better rental housing is growing, and the premises should be renovated to meet the demand,” Bond wrote.
Bond offered advice on how the city could improve housing and build up the tax base: “Take $10 million out of the $83 million from the sale of the Scranton Sewer Authority (SSA) and establish a revolving loan program...’ ”
In response to a May 2016 demolition notice on 1320 Vine St., Bond sent a June 5 email acknowledging problems, but said the property was sound and should not be knocked down. With some city cash, Bond said he could spruce up the outside.
“The exposed side of the premises is not pretty,” he wrote, “but the Company would be happy to side it with a grant from the city (about $15,000) —a ‘quality of life’ improvement.”
Ken Bond, who owes more than $250,000 in delinquent taxes and fees, suggested the city give him taxpayer money to improve one of his crummy properties.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Also in the file is a Jan. 7 notice of violation of the property maintenance code: “Rubbish and garbage have been placed at the curb of the property more than 24 hours prior to the D.P.W. collection date... Please have the property violations remedied within (2) days upon receipt of this letter... Fines for these violations can reach $1,000 per violation.”
The city cited its biggest garbage fee deadbeat for putting out the garbage early.
A Tuesday development suggests the tide may be turning. Hinton called to say Bond paid a brief visit to the LIP department. A department employee told Hinton that Bond drifted in and out without a word.
“He didn’t say anything,” Hinton said. “He just tossed a packet on the counter and walked out.”
Inside the packet was a list of 15 rental properties with tenants and two checks totaling $2,700. With penalties and inspection fees, Hinton said Bond actually owes $6,900 for rental registration violations.
“I don’t even know if I can accept them (the checks), because he didn’t fill out the application,” Hinton said.
The Bond file already weighs more than 15 pounds. May as well send him another letter.
CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, won’t mind if you call him Ishmael. Contact the writer: email@example.com, @cjkink on Twitter. Read his award-winning blog at timestribuneblogs.com/kelly.