JIM THORPE – In his continuing effort to assist municipal officials in Carbon County with the blight problems in their communities, Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) today hosted a seminar on the issue in Jim Thorpe. The discussion featured presentations by state officials on programs and funding available to combat blight in Pennsylvania.
“My office received a number of inquiries from local officials regarding this topic,” said Heffley. “In response, we put together this event to provide an opportunity for them to hear from blight experts and ask questions about how to deal with problems in their communities.”
The 50 municipal officials who attended were encouraged to take advantage of the state resources available to them, including the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, which is administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
“Our role is to help you and to be accessible,” said Rick Vilello, DCED deputy secretary for community affairs and development. “Blight is like cancer. It starts out small and usually goes unnoticed for a long, long time.”
Vilello said there are an estimated 880,000 blighted structures in Pennsylvania, with most located in Philadelphia, which has about 80,000 of them.
There are a variety of state tools available to municipalities for addressing blight, such as the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program and Act 152, which established a fee to fund demolition.
“It’s really critical for you to know what is out there to help you and how you can access those resources,” said Andrew Sheaf, DCED local government policy manager.
Land banks, which 20 communities statewide are now using to acquire abandoned properties for rehabilitation, can also be an effective way for municipalities to deal with blight.
“Bottom line, a land bank can be useful in getting control of blighted properties so the blight can be remediated, and the property is redeveloped for a productive use consistent with local community needs,” said Christopher Gulotta of the Gulotta Group.
Sen. David Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), chairman of the General Assembly’s Blight Task Force, said he expects legislation to be introduced during the current session to strengthen some of the Commonwealth’s anti-blight laws.
Also in attendance were Reps. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) and Kurt Masser (R-Columbia/Montour/Northumberland) and Bill Richards from Sen. John Yudichak’s (D-Luzerne/Carbon) office.
The seminar was co-sponsored by the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation.
A video recording of the seminar will be available for viewing on Heffley’s website, RepHeffley.com
Representative Doyle Heffley
Pennsylvania House of Representatives