Jeannette officials warn of Monsour danger

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The arson fire Tuesday that damaged a house on the site of the long-vacant Monsour Medical Center "continues to highlight the unsafe conditions that exist along that corridor," Jeannette's solicitor said this week.

About a dozen arsons have occurred at the site since the hospital was shuttered in 2006, city solicitor Scott Avolio said.

Jeannette fire Chief Joe Matijevic said the house and adjacent cylindrical hospital building pose a threat to nearby homes and the busy stretch of Route 30 that abuts the property.

"If anything would collapse or fly off it, there's a chance of it landing on Route 30 with all the vehicles passing by," he said.

Chief Matijevic said Tuesday's two-alarm fire, later ruled an arson, began in the basement of the wood-frame stone house and quickly spread throughout the three-story structure.

Mr. Avolio said the hospital is owned by the nonprofit Monsour Foundation, but the boards of both Monsour Medical Center and the foundation have dissolved, with some board members claiming they resigned long ago. Others have died, Mr. Avolio said.

Jeannette, Westmoreland County and Pennsylvania officials are all aware of the situation, Mr. Avolio said.

The goal is eventually to demolish the hospital and turn it over for private use, but "legal tanglings" have made that goal difficult and time-consuming, he said. Mr. Avolio said he hopes the property will be able to be listed in a tax sale in the next year and redeveloped for private use.

The chief and the solicitor were unsure whether the building will need to be demolished, but Mr. Avolio said leveling the house would be "a drop in the bucket" toward improving the safety of the site because it is "surrounded by an equally dangerous structure."

Jeannette fire department Capt. Chuck Miller said the building was deteriorated from years of being open to weather.

"The fire -- all it did was enhance the destruction," he said.

Mr. Avolio said worry over the structure is not new. "It's been an ongoing concern, it will continue to be an ongoing concern," he said.

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Molly Born contributed. Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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