Township hears complaints about burned mobile home

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Those who drive along River Road between Hollidaysburg and Frankstown pass by the remains of a mobile home destroyed last year by fire.

The structure – at least what’s left of it – leans toward the road. Through portions of charred remains, it’s easy to see blue sky or winter’s snowflakes.

“We can’t tear it down right now, but we’ve been working on it,” Blair Township Code Enforcement Officer Tom O’Leary said. “At this point, our hands are still tied.”

“It’s at the top of the priority list,” township Solicitor Frederick Gieg Jr. said.

Rolling Hills resident Jim Biss, who drives by the eyesore daily on his way to and from work, said he contacted the township at least six months ago hoping to see the structure removed.

“It keeps looking worse and worse,” Biss said. “And it’s going to become more and more of a problem because people have started dumping stuff there.”

Unlike some townships without rules to address abandoned and deteriorating structures, Blair Township has a relevant ordinance adopted by supervisors in February 2011. It defines and prohibits dangerous structures within the township. It spells out rules for repairing, vacating or demolishing such structures and the township’s steps in pursuit of such actions.

“We’ve already addressed two other structures with that ordinance,” Gieg said.

In the case of the mobile home along River Road, O’Leary said the township is not yet in a position to order removal or demolition.

“We can’t tear it down right now because we don’t own it,” O’Leary said. “If we did that, somebody could come back and sue us.”

In attempting to prove who owns the mobile home, O’Leary said he had a state police trooper and someone familiar with manufacturing mobile homes look for identification numbers that could be traced to an owner.

“There are no numbers,” O’Leary said.

While Christopher Lynn Mehrer is identified as the owner of the land where the mobile home is parked, O’Leary said he doesn’t believe that Mehrer owns the mobile home. But in attempting to address the matter, O’Leary sent notices of the ordinance violation to Mehrer, who reportedly lives in Wyoming.

“But so far, there’s been no response, no answer,” O’Leary said.

The township, under its ordinance, has the power to remove or demolish a dangerous structure, but only after notifying the structure’s owner and offering the option of a hearing to address the violation.

One alternative, O’Leary said, would be to wait until July when the Blair County Tax Claim office is expected to put the mobile home up for sale for unpaid taxes. The township could buy it, O’Leary said, then pay for demolition with Community Development Block Grant dollars designated for blight elimination.

Gieg said he hopes the township can act faster. It has some options, he said, which may require seeking assistance from Blair County court.

“Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it,” Gieg said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.