Johnstown addresses blight

JOHNSTOWN – The city recently sent out letters to certain property owners requesting they clean up their code-enforcement problems or face stiffer action.

Councilman-at-Large Christopher Swatt addressed blight issues and ward sweeps during a report to the Common Council last week at City Hall.

“Maybe this will spur some people to take some action,” he said.

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Heberer said the city is currently in the midst of cleaning up many blight issues through code enforcement.

“The clock has run out,” Heberer said. “We already sent our certified letters out.”

Heberer said four tickets were due to be issued last week, and property owners with other alleged violations appear to be getting the message.

“The rest of them have started to comply,” the fire official said.

He said a recent citywide cleanup program helped alleviate some of the blight problems.

Heberer said some of the blight issues are resulting from some property owners receiving foreclosure notices from banks and then leaving prematurely before any deals can be worked out.

“The banks think they’re still there,” Heberer said.

He said banks that hold the mortgages are continuing to pay taxes, although in some cases, houses are vacant and quickly fall into a state of disrepair.

“It’s one of the biggest issues we’ve been having,” Heberer said.

During the city fire department report, it was noted the department’s Codes Division conducted 788 inspections and complaint responses during May.

The fire department in May issued 95 work permits with an estimated $608,950 worth of construction projects. The city collected $2,527 in fees for the work.

City residents were reminded to obtain permits before beginning certain projects at home, such as: repairs to foundations, garages, barns, sheds, basements or entryways, carports, patios, breezeways, siding, sheds under 144 square feet, and painting.