Three city buildings set for demolition

Altoona City Council members agreed Wednesday to demolish three blighted buildings, enlisting a pair of contractors to knock down the structures at a total cost of more than $24,000.

The buildings at 1115 Sixth Ave., 408 12th St. and 722 Fourth Ave. could be razed within days or months, Councilman David Butterbaugh Jr. said Wednesday. City officials, including Mayor Bill Schirf, described the razings as part of a yearslong effort to repurpose or eliminate hundreds of blighted properties.

“We have made a concerted effort over the years to attack blight,” Schirf said. “It is my opinion that we’ve turned a corner on this.”

Since 1995, he said, Altoona officials have demolished roughly 250 buildings, while developers have razed or revitalized about 250 more.

Backed by rental inspections, code enforcement and the establishment of city demolition crews, the frequent razings have put a dent in blight-connected crime, Schirf said.

“Our blighted property [policy] has been one of the most aggressive in the state,” Butterbaugh said.

Schirf cited a 2006 Altoona Mirror series on blighted properties as an impetus for recent years’ razing efforts and hailed city officials and local companies for occupying previously empty properties. Of those named in the 2006 article, many have since been demolished, he said.

Some must be demolished outright, however, including the three properties that City Council approved Wednesday. Two are to be razed by Earthmovers Unlimited Inc. of Kylertown for $17,672, while a third is to be taken down by Altoona Contracting, Excavating & Demolition Services for $6,728.

Butterbaugh said neighbors often buy the empty lots left after blight demolitions.

In other business Wednesday, council members approved an ordinance completing a three-year codification process, organizing the city’s rules into a unified, searchable system that eliminates redundant and outdated laws.

“It’s an ordinance that is near and dear to my heart,” City Clerk Linda Rickens Schellhammer said.

Under the new system, the city’s ordinances will be placed online June 24 for the public to search, saving city officials time and effort, council members said.

Council members also introduced a $30 million bond refinancing ordinance that is expected to save tens of thousands of dollars each month and reduce the need to take out extra debt for government purchases. That plan, along with a proposed ordinance to charge fees for certain nuisance and false-alarm fire calls, will come up for a final vote at a future meeting.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.