Penn Township toughens stance on neglected, abandoned properties

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Penn has upped the ante for property that's not being properly maintained by its owner.

For years, the township has filed municipal claims against property owners who fail to clear weeds or mow grass. The claims would amount to the cost incurred by the township for use of its workers and machinery along with solicitor and mailing fees.

However, claims would often be ignored and left unpaid, with the township having no further recourse to obtain reimbursement, said Bruce Light, township manager.

That's about to change, however, as commissioners Monday night approved an amendment to the Property Maintenance Code that provides the township the right to file municipal liens on properties where claims have not been paid.

"Due to the amount of mortgage foreclosures and people abandoning property" the township has a problem, said solicitor Les Mlakar.

Mr. Mlakar explained that under the amendment, property owners will have 30 days to pay a claim. If the claim goes unpaid, a lien will be filed that will sizably increase the amount they owe. Then, if the property is ever sold or refinanced, the township can collect the money it's due.

If a lien is filed, Mr. Mlakar said, "In actually, a $100 claim could turn into $400."

The measure was approved by the commissioners, although Commissioners Jeff Shula and Charles Horvath Jr. were absent from the meeting.

In other business, commissioners agreed to seek a new administrative assistant for the police department.

Police Chief John Otto said that two longtime administrative assistants in his department have announced plans to retire early next year.

He said he would like to hire at least one replacement now so that the new employee could be trained before the first retirement occurs. He said he would then like to advertise for another replacement in a few months.

The commissioners also approved signing a landowner letter of commitment, which will allow the state Department of Environment Protection and the Westmoreland County Conservation District to perform assessments of township-owned storm ponds.

Mr. Light said township retention ponds will be examined to assure that they are working effectively.

"We would like our ponds to retain more water and emit cleaner water," Mr. Light said.


Linda Metz, freelance writer:


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