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Lackawanna councilman demands demolition of eyesore

Lackawanna Councilman Joseph Jerge on Wednesday demanded his first demolition, a Ridgewood Village address littered with used hypodermic needles that had become a squatters haven and a threat to the safety of children.

“The total outstanding debt owed to the city, including unpaid property taxes and maintenance costs is approximately $60,000. The preliminary demolition cost is $20,000,” said Jerge. “What I don’t know is what it would cost the first time a little kid steps on a needle and catches a disease or somebody gets killed over there. I don’t know what that cost would be, but I do know that house has been an eyesore and has plagued that neighborhood for years. And it has come up at these meetings. I never asked for a demolition, but it really has to go.”

Fred Heinle, director of development, said that until the new budget was passed, Lackawanna had no demolition funds.

“I’ve already started the process going,” said Heinle, adding that the funds are in place.

Later in the meeting – which had been moved from its usual time of 7 p.m. Monday to 11 a.m. Wednesday – the Council took action to clean up some of its own derelict properties.

Bids for demolition were accepted for three properties: 36 Wood St. ($19,500), 48 Steelawanna Ave. ($26,600) and 1653 Electric Ave. ($14,670), said Heinle.

Community activist John E. Ingram challenged Council members during the public comment period over the switch of meeting time.

“The City Charter said you can’t do it. The city attorney said you can’t do it, but you did it anyway,” said Ingram, who regularly attends Council sessions. “Where is the ethics board?”

City Attorney Antonio Savagilo acknowledged Ingram’s points but added: “I also said there would be no penalty for changing the meeting time.”

In other action:

• The Council cleared the way to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph in the Bethlehem Park neighborhood. The reduction was requested by Third Ward councilman Jerge and First Ward councilman Abdul Noman. In February, a similar request was made regarding Ridgewood Village.

“Although it has not eradicated the problem of speeding through neighborhood streets, it certainly has created a greater sense of awareness for the people who live there,” said Jerge, who presented the Council with a petition signed by 200 residents who supported the speed reduction.

• Council members approved the advertisement for bids to repave Electric Avenue from Kirby Avenue north. It also involves the repaving of Kane, Olcott, Wilson and Wilkesbarre streets, said Anthony DeSantis, commissioner of public works. The city received $100,000 from the Community Development Block Grant Program. The remainder of the project will be funded through the Community Housing Improvement Program. DeSantis expected work to begin within the next month.

• Heinle received the green light on an audit of energy use in city-owned buildings. Funding for the audit conducted by the John W. Danforth Co. comes from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, who makes recommendations for energy efficiency. The allocation of funds to pay for the improvements will be covered by the savings generated by the energy upgrades to the facilities, said Heinle.