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Lackawanna closes loophole on city code compliance

The City of Lackawanna is looking to close a loophole in the city’s code that for years has helped negligent property owners avoid fixing up their properties.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to get rid of a stipulation in the city’s code that allowed property owners up to six months to bring into code compliance properties cited for violations.

City Council members said some landowners over the years have taken advantage of the code by purchasing a property with violations, sitting on the property for nearly six months and then deeding it to friends or family – effectively restarting the six-month clock with no improvements to the property.

The subtle code change approved Monday will make properties subject to code enforcement upon purchase.

“You buy it, and then it’s subject to all code enforcement,” said City Attorney Antonio Savaglia. “They don’t get the six months automatically, and they don’t get to drag their feet on it.”

The change would give the city “the power to put a stop to the shell game,” said Council President Henry R. Pirowski Jr. “This is giving us a tool so that we can stop the abuses. That’s all.”

The Council also agreed to grant the use of the city’s Bocce Court on May 21 for use as a 1st Ward polling place for the Lackawanna City School District, which is having its budget vote and School Board elections.

Last year, Council members tabled a vote on a measure that would have allowed the district to use the Bocce Court as a polling site, after several members complained that the school board was attempting to disenfranchise voters in the city’s 1st Ward by offering just one polling site there.

The case went to court, and a judge ultimately ruled that the Council had to make the site available as a polling site for the district.

Pirowski reiterated his concerns again this year but said there was little the Council could do to stop the district.

“I sincerely wish they would institute more polling places, especially in the 1st Ward,” said Pirowski before abstaining from a vote on the measure, which passed 5-0 because abstentions count as yes votes.