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CENTER TOWNSHIP: Building expansion under way

by CHAUNCEY ROSS on November 05, 2013 10:55 AM

GRACETON — The Center Township board of supervisors reported Monday that construction is under way on an addition to the township headquarters building along Neal Road.

The expansion will shelter many of the township’s road maintenance vehicles, which had been left exposed to the elements in the past.

The township had parked some of its trucks at the Homer City electric generating station, “but we lost that storage space,” said Supervisor John Bertolino. “We have 25 pieces of equipment and we could only house five trucks and a loader during the winter. We had two trucks, sometimes three, that sat out all night long during the winter.

“You come in at 4 o’clock in the morning and it’s 7 degrees out, you’re crossing your fingers that the equipment is going to start,” Bertolino said. “Just getting a truck out of the weather makes a big difference.”

Uhl Construction Company, of Allison Park, Allegheny County, was awarded the contract earlier this year for a low bid of $356,950, and began work on Oct. 7.

Bertolino said it is the realization of planning that began in 2009, when the supervisors first proposed a more complete garage and maintenance building but set aside plans because of high costs.

“It will include a steel shell and lighting … at some point down the road, we’ll push to complete it, but in order to work it into the budget, we scaled the building way back,” Bertolino said.

So far, the steel superstructure has been erected. The target date for completion is the end of December, Bertolino said.

In other business, township ordinance enforcement officer Robert White reported that he had located the owner of an abandoned house in Coral and led discussion of whether the township should condemn and take over the property.

White reported that the owner, Mary Shaffer Clark, has left the area and has no interest in keeping the property, and that S&T Bank no longer is pursuing the mortgage payments on it.

“The grass hasn’t been mowed for a year and a half,” White said. “The doors are open and cats are living in there.

“We have had numerous phone calls about it.”

The supervisors said the township had been saddled with the costs of demolishing a property in Aultman that had been condemned several years ago, and that the township should not assume the financial burden of tearing down the house and maintaining the land, even for a brief time until it is sold.

Supervisor David “Butch” Smyers said the unpaid back taxes on the property total $17,000.

“I don’t know why we would want to take on that burden,” Bertolino said. “I recognize it is a safety and a health hazard, but there is an individual … who, if the county condemns it, should be responsible for demolition, not the township.”

“If the bank has it, and the doors need boarded up and the grass needs cut … we can do that and bill them, and put a lien on it,” Supervisor Robert Pozik said. “Other than that, we have nothing in it. I don’t understand how we’re getting drug in it.

“But that’s how you do it. We put a lien on it and it comes up for sheriff’s sale.”

The supervisors suggested having the township solicitor, the Bonya & Gazza law firm, write to the bank about taking responsibility for the property.

“If the bank holds the lien, the bank controls that piece of property,” Bertolino said. “If they are letting the owner release that and they take control because they have the lien, they control it and they become liable for boarding up the doors and ensuring that the ordinances we have are met in connection to cleaning up the yard and maintaining it.

The board took no vote on handling the property.

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