BROOKVILLE — Rats as big as cats in the yard, in and out of the house – that is what some members of the Brookville Borough Council heard last week is happening on Pine Street.
By Monday, the structure had yellow police tape across its porch and front door and was deemed a health hazard. Brookville Police Chief Vince Markle, Brookville Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Chris Henry and borough health officer Emerson Turnbull had visited the property after being instructed to do so under the Dilapidated Building Ordinance by the borough’s administration.
The administrative action was taken following last week’s regularly scheduled council meeting, which was canceled and rescheduled to this past Monday as a result of a lack of quorum last week. Council members present last week were Phil Hynes, Karen Allgeier, Randy Bartley and Mayor Richard Beck. Absent were Bill Kutz and Rick Baughman, both ill at home, Ken King, who was out of state and Todd Gumpher, whose wife was having a baby.
Mike Schuckers, speaking on behalf of the a Pine Street neighborhood, had attended last week’s scheduled meeting seeking help with an issue the neighborhood had with a house at 95 Pine St. While council had canceled the meeting, those members who were in attendance, offered to hear what Schuckers or anyone wanting to address council if they could not attend the rescheduled meeting. Council members present did make it clear that they could not take any action last week. Kutz, who called in, also listened to what Schuckers had to say.
Schuckers asked about the status of the house that he said the borough condemned and tagged. “What we’d like to know is what the status is of that as far as tearing it down, or what you’re going to do with it?”
He noted that while he did not live beside the house, he does have rental property beside it and across the street from it. Schuckers said he spent $450 baiting the yard at 95 Pine St. “for the rats, the mice, the squirrel. I don’t know if any of you guys have been in it, but it’s a mess and it’s causing a hazard.
“It’s better now that the dumpsters gone but they’re still in the house. Not only is it a health hazard, I mean it is a health hazard from the standpoint if anybody goes up on that porch you’re gonna fall through it,” he said, adding that he went over to the house “two weeks ago now to shut the door because there’s somebody going in and out of there. I don’t know if it’s somebody living in there or what, but you’ll fall through the front porch.”
He told council members that a man picking up oxygen tanks that were in the house from the previous tenants fell through the steps going down off the porch.
“Doors are hanging open. The side door Ken McKinney pushed it shut with a rock he put up there. The front door a week ago last Tuesday was hanging wide open. We want to go on as a neighborhood from the health hazard issue because it is, because there’s rats over there the size of cats. And that’s the truth,” Schuckers said.
“I don’t know if those rats are coming off that run down below, you know, coming up that way and going there or how they’re going in because it’s supposedly cleaned up inside so the owner says. I’ve contacted him several times. He’ll offer it to anybody for $1. I’m sure there’s back taxes on it. Nobody wants it, because nobody wants to pay $12,000 to $15,000 to tear it out of there.
Solicitor Jim Dennison said his goal for the borough was to have the structure torn down by the owner at the owner’s expense. He said that he isn’t sure the structure is even capable of being repaired, noting that he believes the roof is completely moss covered.
Schuckers said he had talked to the owner about the rodents before finally deciding to send an exterminator to the property to bait the yard at his own expense. “You can probably go there now and see them (the rats) laying now that the snow (has) melted; there’s rats laying in that yard.” He went on to say that the owner told him that he doesn’t have the money to tear down the house and that he bought it to get the coins that the former owner had supposedly hidden in the walls.
Dennison said that once the borough gets a new code enforcement officer, the officer could use the Dilapidated Building Ordinance or the property maintenance code to address the issue. He noted that he has had buildings torn down in the borough before under the Dilapidated Building Ordinance.
Under the Dilapidated Building Code the borough does not have to wait to hire an enforcement officer, Dennison said, nor does it need to vote on anything. The code just calls for the administration to request that the police chief, the fire chief and the health officer check the property and then come back to council. Since no vote was needed, Markle, Henry and Emerson, who were present, were directed to check out the property. They have since done so and placed the police tape to let people know the house has been condemned.
The property owner was given 10 days to apply for a permit to tear the structure down. If he does not he will have 30 days to file an appeal, which would then go before the appeal board. Dennison said with the property being condemned the owner cannot make any move to repair it.