Not The Item


Nightmare on Spruce Street

June 23rd, 2013

City Violating Own Codes!

We have all heard about Mayor Persing’s plans to clean up our city and get rid of the “scourge” of blighted properties. On WKOK Friday, in front of an adoring audience of Mark Lawrence and Ben Reichley, he was waxing most eloquently about these plans. All well and good, but it seems that his plans only apply to some, and certainly not to the City of Sunbury and their very own portfolio of blighted properties.

Rear view of #239 Spruce Street

#239 Spruce – old vine-covered freezer and sagging balcony.

Not The Item spoke with Terry and Mary Marshall of Spruce Street, who occupy one half of a double. The other half, #239, has been owned by the City for 7 years, and would most certainly fall within the Mayor’s criteria to be considered an abandoned and blighted property.

Condemned and Dangerous

Front View - Spruce Street

Front View – Spruce Street

239 Spruce had previously been occupied by a Beverley Ross. She kept cats – lots of them – and appears to have been a hoarder too. The Marshalls had to seal all their walls to prevent the foul smell of cat urine from penetrating their property. Constant complaints finally got some action. Judge Saylor actually inspected the property along with members of Sunbury PD and had it condemned. Ms. Ross was allowed to move out without liability. The trash that was removed at that time completely filled 3 dumpsters. The city assumed ownership.

condemned notice

Condemned Notice

Even a glance at the building will reveal how far it is from being in code compliance. Part of the porch floor is missing, pigeons are living in the roof space, the roof shingles are way beyond their useful life, paint is peeling off the siding, the house stinks and appears to be filled with junk, and the yard is overgrown, tree branches growing through the electric wires, and is a haven for all kinds of critters including groundhogs, cats and snakes. Some neighbors have started dumping trash in the yard too.

Overgrown Yard - Home to many Critters.

Overgrown Yard – Home to many Critters.

The roof support above the rear corner of the porch and balcony has subsided, leaving this part of the roof unsupported and in danger of collapse. An old freezer, still filled with remains of food, has been lying outside, inactive for over 7 years. An air conditioner hangs out a side window at a crazy angle – a result of a previously attempted theft, and all along the side of the house are huge piles of pigeon poop.

Unmaintained Siding

Unmaintained Siding

Unsupported Roof

Unsupported Roof

Earlier this year, the cellar was broken into and the door damaged. The Marshall’s contacted Joe Bartello who got the police involved and then the City came in to put locks on all the doors to secure the building. Joe has been the only person from the City who has tried to help – in contrast with other members of the Persing administration he actually cares about the City and the welfare of its inhabitants.

Missing Porch Floo

Missing Porch Floor

Pigeon Poop

Pigeon Poop

Why is all this being allowed to happen? You may well ask! One clue is the fact that Terry served on the Shikellamy District School Board for 15 years, and during that time butted heads with Mr. Persing on more than one occasion. Maybe he still bears a grudge for this. Certainly Terry and Mary have spoken to officials at every level of local government – the Code Office, the Fire Department, the Mayor (frequently), the County and to Merle Phillips – in an effort to find a solution to their problem.

Unfulfilled Promises

Persing has made a number of promises over that time, none of which have so far been fulfilled. Terry even offered the Mayor to take the property off the City’s hands and refurbish it himself, but that was rejected too. Seems they would rather hang on to a blighted property than have it returned to the tax roll to actually help City finances.

Mary and Terry on their Front Porch

Mary and Terry on their Front Porch

Right now the Marshalls have almost paid off their house. It is a very tidy unit too, but with the present state of the adjoining property it has been rendered virtually unsellable. They would like to make more improvements, including the installation of replacement windows, but how can they possibly invest further money given the present level of uncertainty. They are desperate to resolve this situation, have retained an attorney and are carefully considering their options.

On WKOK Friday Persing was certainly talking the talk. However, his inexplicable inaction on this issue, as well as with many of the other issues which currently plague our City, provides us with yet more evidence that he is incapable of walking the walk.

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