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Blighted property irks Hollidaysburg man

House ‘a threat to our safety’

HOLLIDAYSBURG — When Robert Buchanan bought a house along Beaver Street in Hollidaysburg 11 years ago, he said he thought he had found his dream home.

But what he had hoped would be a peaceful life for him and his two children has turned into a daily battle with rodents, and the constant fear that a hollowed out tree on the burned out property next door will come crashing through his house.

The house next door to Buchanan’s, at 408 Beaver St., caught fire in April. The blaze gutted the second floor, leaving the home inhabitable. Buchanan said the structure is unsound and he fears for the safety of his family.

“Bricks have fallen off the house and actually broke my sidewalk,” Buchanan said while pointing to a hole in the side of the second floor. “I won’t let my kids walk between the houses because I’m afraid one will fall on them.”

Buchanan said garbage is piled up to the point where he is battling rats and other rodents. After many complaints to the borough, he said they finally hauled the trash away this week.

“There was a dumpster out back that was flooded with trash,” he said. “People were just dumping things, but it never got picked up. It was beginning to smell and attracting all kinds of rodents.”

Buchanan said a big concern of his is a tree that he believes is in danger of falling onto his house. He said the possibility of it falling is so great that his son had to move out of his bedroom to the other side of the house.

“When that thing finally falls, it’s going right through his bedroom,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the borough has sent code enforcement to investigate his complaints, and he said at least some of the garbage has been cleaned up, but nothing has been done about the tree.

He said he talked to the homeowner about the tree but was met with indifference. He said from the day he moved in, he has not had a good relationship with the owner.

Since the fire, Buchanan said he has been living next door to a nightmare. The home is not boarded up and Buchanan said it has become a home for stray cats. He said people go in and out of the open structure at all hours, which makes him uneasy.

“I’ve seen people go inside and hang out in there,” he said. “They finally locked up the house … but it was hard to sleep not knowing who was out there.”

On weekends, Buchanan said, people show up and sit on the porch all day drinking alcohol. He said he has caught them numerous times urinating on his sidewalk.

Buchanan said he contacted the borough’s code enforcement and he said they told him the owner has a year to either fix up or tear down the structure.

Buchanan said that in the meantime, the area should at least be kept cleaned up and safe.

He said after his third complaint, someone cut the overgrown grass and removed two junk vehicles from the yard.

Buchanan said the borough’s code enforcement told him he should take his complaints to court.

“They told me it was civil matter,” he said. “This place is a threat to our safety.”

Buchanan said he doesn’t want to fight with the home’s owner or the borough, he just wants the property to be cleaned up and made safe.

“I don’t want any problems,” he said. “I don’t care if the house stays, it just needs to be safer.”

Hollidaysburg Mayor Joe Dodson referred questions to Borough Manager James Gehret.

Gehret said Buchanan’s complaints are being investigated by Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Harbison but borough policy prohibits him from commenting on ongoing investigations.

Mirror Staff Writer Rick Boston is at 946-7535.

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