Oil City Couple Expresses Concern Over City’s Proposed Sale of Property

| July 14, 2017

OIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) – An Oil City couple addressed City Council on Thursday about council’s proposal to sell one of five lots – three in the Fourth Ward and two in the Sixth Ward – that Oil City acquired earlier this year in the Venango County Land Bank sale.

(See related story: City Manager Gets Contract Extension)

Dan and Lisa Littler of the 400 block of West Third Street are concerned about the city’s proposed sale of the house and property at 403 West Third Street, which is right next door to their house.

“The house is in bad shape,” Dan Littler told the council. “It requires more than just paint and carpet. It is overrun with mildew and mold. It’s going to need more than cosmetic repairs. It is going to be required to be gutted. A new roof is needed, and a new heating and ventilation system is also needed.”

“Our suggestion is that it be torn down and made into green space.”

Councilman Ron Gustafson told the Littlers that as much as the city would like to tear down the house, the city only has a limited amount of funds to do so and other properties are in worse shape.

“We know that and understand that,” Lisa Littler said. “We were just hoping for the best outcome.”

Gustafson encouraged the Littlers to possibly consider buying the property and tearing down the house, but Lisa Littler said that didn’t look like it was a possibility.

She then asked how much it would cost to tear the house down, and City Manager Mark Schroyer estimates that he thought it would be between $6,000.00 and $8,000.00, which Lisa Littler said was lower than she anticipated.

“I feel a little better knowing that,” Lisa Littler said.

The Littlers were also concerned that the house could be bought by a “slumlord” or someone wanting to rent it out.

The resolution to bid out the properties – the official properties are Lots 5170A, 5171 and 5172B in the Fourth Ward and Lots 7294 and 7295A in the Sixth Ward – would limit the use of the properties to single-family dwellings. This pleased the Littlers who said that when their neighbor passed away five years ago, they tried their best to keep the upkeep of the property – at least on the outside.

“We were able to keep up with the upkeep of the outside for about four years,” Dan Littler said. “The last year, it kind of got away.”

Lisa Littler said the upkeep was done as much out of respect for their neighbor as it was for the property value of their house but that she was concerned with their property value depending on what happened with the house.

“Is there any way you can make sure that whoever buys the house has the money to do the needed repairs on it?” Lisa Littler asked.

Mayor Bill Moon asked if it was possible that with the bidding process if people would have to provide proof of funds, and Schroyer asked if the city could set a minimum bid on the property.

City solicitor Robert Varsek said that a fair market value would first have to be set, and he is not sure if the city could even set a fair market value of the house at this point because of the condition of the property.

Lisa Littler also said the mold and other health hazards associated with the house concern her and her husband.

Councilman Isaiah Dunham then asked if an inspection could take place, and Curt Greene, the Director of Code Administration, said that they could have a mold company come up and see how bad it is.

Lisa Littler said a report was actually done by a mold company out of Pittsburgh about a year ago, and if council wanted her to, she would see if she could get a copy of it.

Moon said that would be great.

After thanking the Littlers for their input, council approved the resolution to advertise for bids on the five properties.

STATE POLICE SURCHARGE PROPOSAL

Another lengthy discussion ensued among the council members about the proposed $25.00 per person fee to residents of municipalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that currently rely on state police coverage instead of local police departments. It was at least the third discussion council has had this year on the topic.

Councilmen Gustafson and Dale Massie are in favor of the city sending a letter to state officials saying the city is in favor of the proposal, while Dunham is opposed of sending the letter.

It’s not that Dunham opposes the fee potentially; he just doesn’t believe the council should be stating its support of what amounts to a tax increase on citizens it doesn’t represent.

Gustafson continued his argument that while the fee wouldn’t fix all the problems, it would be a way to break the ice and get people in municipalities that currently use state police protection.

Massie stated that while many municipalities that don’t have to pay for police services are sitting on huge surpluses, Oil City – which has its own police force – isn’t.

Moon, who had been quiet up to this point, said he agreed with that point.

Police Chief Robert Werner told the council that one way for municipalities to get around paying the proposed $25.00 fee would be to contract with the Oil City Police Department (or other local police departments) for police services.

No mention was made of the fact that all Pennsylvanians already pay taxes, which are supposed to go to support the state police. Although, Gustafson did mention that money was being taken from the gas tax and used to support the state police, and he believes that money should be spent on roads and bridges.

Because there was a consensus among council, Gustafson said he didn’t believe the letter should be sent.

WILL PEDESTRIAN SIGNAL ON SENECA STREET BE REMOVED?

A discussion started by Schroyer concerned the pedestrian traffic signal on Seneca Street near McNerney’s.

The signal is in poor shape according to Schroyer, and a traffic study needs to be conducted. PennDOT wants Oil City to agree to the findings of the traffic study, and if the study doesn’t support a traffic signal, it would need to be removed.

Removal would be done by the Oil City Fire Department.

BID BACK FOR PAVING PROJECT

Schroyer also said bids are back for the paving project, and they have come in “extremely” favorable for the city with a difference of around $60,000.00 from the lowest bid to the next dig. The lowest bid was submitted by East Coast Paving Company. More information on the bids would be made available at the July 27 council meeting.

Moon then asked about the Palace Hill Area in Oil City and if paving could be done in 2018 to help stop the washouts in the area.

“I think it is a prudent thing to look at,” Schroyer said. “In my hometown, they did one or two paving of alleys a year, and that seemed to really fix the problem.”

Schroyer also said that all the rain in the area has caused many water-related problems, but not much could be done about it considering the amount of rain that fell in a short amount of time.

“Not even Beverly Hills, Calif., has a system that could handle the amount of rain we have gotten,” Schroyer said.

Schroyer did say that some of the money saved from the paving bid should allow the city to get some of the alleys and roads back in shape.

A question was also asked about the milling of Plummer Street in Oil City, and the council was told that the weather has been holding it up but as soon as the weather gets nicer milling should take place.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business the council:

  • Approved a request from the Oil City Arts Council for the 2018 Indie Music Festival that is taking place June 8, 2018. The Arts Council requested the closure of Seneca Street from Duncomb Street from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., the placement of the stage in front of H&R Block, electrical access from lamp posts and trash containers on both sides of the street. The festival will actually take place June 9 as well, but the Arts Council didn’t need council’s approval for anything that day.
  • Granted permission to Grace United Methodist Church to use the parking lot behind the church building for the Grace Church Carnival, which will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 15. The lot will be closed from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. that day.
  • Approved a request from the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce to use Justus Park for the 39th Annual Oil Heritage Festival July 20-23.
  • Gave permission to the Oil City Elks Lodge to use the James E. Nelles Swimming Pool for an “End of Summer Pool Party 2017” Aug. 13. The pool party will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will be open to the first 300 area children ages infant to 16-years old. There will be free admission, a ticket for one hot dog and beverage (bottle of water of can of pop) and snacks for each youth attending. Prizes will also be given away.
  • Approved a request from Oil City Main Street Program to close the Center Street Bridge from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 19 to celebrate the completion of the Center Street Bridge Lighting Project. Plans include a family-friendly “bridge party” with music, street dancing, dedication ceremony and official illumination.
  • Reappointed Margaret Brostrom and Lee Mehlburger to the Shade Tree Commission. According to the city website, the commission was established in 1977 to oversee tree planting and removal near city streets. They notify property owners of hazard trees, approve or disapprove permits to plant or remove trees and apply for grants for the purchase and planting of new trees or for trimming. They work closely with the Community Development Department and Public Works.
  • Approved a pair of Main Street Facade Grants – one to Wilson Real Estate, 120 West First Street in an amount of between $1,680.94 and $2,622.45 depending on the remaining available funding and another to the Oil City VFW, 2 Relief Street in the amount of $1,576.75.
  • Announced two new hires – David Parsons in public works effective July 24 and Shane Heath in the water department effective July 31.

RETIREMENT WATCHES PRESENTED – VIDEO

Watch Mayor Moon present three retirement watches at the meeting.


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