Portage votes to evict residents of ‘dangerous, unsafe’ residence

Occupants to vacate property by April 17

PORTAGE — Borough Council has decided to evict the residents of a dilapidated residence that was deemed “dangerous and unsafe” for its occupants.

The property on 828 N. Railroad St. had been previously deemed by borough engineer Gary Wisor as “dangerous to the safety and welfare of its occupants.”

Solicitor Michael Emerick said that after sending several notices to the owners ordering issues found with the property to be corrected, the owners failed to resolve any of the numerous issues.

“We are unaware of any corrective action by the owners,” Emerick said.

After a public hearing on Monday, council unanimously voted to evict the occupants of the property and ordered the property owner to demolish the building.

Occupants of the building will be ordered by council to vacate the property by April 17.

Emerick said that Berniece Guant signed a deed for the building on Nov. 2, 2015.

The eviction follows in compliance of Section 106, Item B, of the borough’s ordinance, which allows the borough to oust property occupants if a building is deemed unsafe.

The property was evaluated by Wisor in September, and he found that “50 percent or more of the property was in serious disrepair.”

“The roofing material is long past its useful life as evidenced by the deterioration of the roof sheathing,” Wisor said in his field view report of the property. “The interior of the building is being exposed to the weather because of the condition of the roof, soffit and fascia as well as the open windows.”

The property currently lacks water, heating and sewage systems.

In compliance with Section 101 of the borough ordinance, Wisor said the building classifies as a “dangerous building.”

The property was also recently blamed by neighbors for an infestation of rats in the area.

Wisor ultimately recommended to council that because of the unsafe conditions of the property, that it be vacated and demolished.

Council decided to delay the date of eviction to April, which Councilman Todd Learn said would be the end of “heating season.”

“We don’t want to see anyone out in the streets,” Learn said, “especially out in the winter.”

A disabled child is among the occupants of the building, and because of the extra needs the child would need, council agreed that holding the eviction until April would be the “best decision for the welfare of the occupants.”

Emerick said he is unsure that the occupants will actually vacate the property, even with eviction notices being sent.

“We are not sure what the property owners will do,” Emerick said. “If they don’t comply, this could become a lengthy process.”

The property owners, or members of the public, were not present at the hearing to testify.

Emerick said the date in which the owners must demolish the building has not yet been set.