Oil City Council took a first step Thursday in the consideration of a new ordinance that would address abandoned and condemned buildings in a more stringent and cost-effective way.
Last month, city manager Mark Schroyer suggested that council should consider enacting a property nuisance ordinance that would address fire hazards, unsafe conditions, blight and more. One prompt in examining the new ordinance was the recent condemnation of the multi-story brick IOOF Building on Seneca Street.
One or more city departments could investigate the condition of a building to determine whether it was a "nuisance", or in a condition that was a threat or hazard to the community's health and safety, was unsafe to use, constituted a fire threat or "diminishes or depreciates" property in the immediate vicinity.
The city could abate the property and then charge the owner. There is also an appeal process available to the owner. Fines could be levied and liens put on the property.
One of the stronger terms in the proposed ordinance is a personal liability entry that "gives it more teeth," according to Schroyer.
The new law would give the city the right to hold property owners personally liable, meaning that other property (bank accounts, homes, and more) could be seized for costs.
Council members voted Thursday to advertise the proposed ordinance. After the public disclosure, council will discuss the proposal and seek public comments.
Authority to be dissolved
City solicitor Bob Varsek told council that the Oil City Parking Authority had "submitted all the proper paperwork" to dissolve. The four-member authority voted earlier this month to go out of business due to a lack of any oversight or consultation related to public parking in the city.
Varsek said the documents will be forwarded to the corporation bureau in the Pennsylvania Department of State for review.
Once the state agency finishes that, the issue will be considered by council. An ordinance eliminating the city panel and allowing for the reversion of any authority-owned property back to the city will be drawn up and voted on, said Varsek.
On the subject of city properties, city manager Mark Schroyer reported that "there are multiple projects going on in the city." He referred to the refurbishment of the Mitchell Avenue playground, re-roofing the North Side fire station, water line replacement under Oil Creek and the upcoming opening of paving bids.
"We're doing the best we can with what we have," said Schroyer, adding that the city continues to receive requests from other sources as to playground and other projects.
Citation complaint aired
A Herald Street resident complained to council that she had been unfairly targeted for a citation relating to accumulated rubbish on her property. The rubbish, she said, was located on a strip of land she doesn't own but that is adjacent to her home.
She said she paid to have it removed but felt her dealings with the city in trying to resolve the citation were unsatisfactory and hindered by "lots of red tape." Mayor Bill Moon said he would review her documents.
Council approved a recommendation from city fire Chief Mark Hicks to end probationary periods for Capt. Derek Long and Lt. Dennis Cherish. Noting their "leadership skills have been flawless" during the probation, Hicks asked that both men be permanently promoted to their positions.
In a related note, Hicks told council the Sound the Alarm campaign held jointly by the American Red Cross chapter and the fire department on June 1 resulted in the installation of 203 smoke alarms in 81 homes throughout the city.
Volunteering in the project were Red Cross representatives, ham radio operators and members of the South Side and Siverly Neighborhood Associations.
"It was very successful and worked out really well," Hicks said.
In other business Thursday:
n Council approved the use of Justus Park for the annual Jolly July 3 celebration. Brian Hoffman of the Oil City Arts Council is the program committee chairman.
The event will include children's activities, live music, food vendors and fireworks display.
n The Oil City Library advisory council and the Oil City Main Street Program were given permission to close the Central Avenue Plaza on Thursday, July 25, for a Touch-A-Truck event for children. It will be held in conjunction with the farmers market on Central and is included in the Oil Heritage Festival schedule of events.
Stew Armstrong, marketing coordinator and arts liaison with ARTS Oil City, is coordinating the event.
n A request to use the public parking lot behind Grace United Methodist Church for a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. car wash on July 6 was approved. The Ignite church group will use the event to raise money for a mission trip to Jamaica.
n Council adopted a resolution approving the 2019 BridgeFest on Saturday, Aug. 17, on Veterans Bridge. The bridge will be temporarily restricted and closed to vehicular traffic during the event.
The first part of BridgeFest will be held Friday, Aug. 16, on the Center Street Bridge.
n Kathy Bailey of the city's Main Street Program told council the annual Music in Town Square programs will begin June 20. The 7 to 9 p.m. concert will be the first of four scheduled in the North Side business district park.