Demolition of former store nears end

By WENDY STIVER

wstiver@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — There is a pretty big hole along Bellefonte Avenue. It’s the spot where the old furniture store once stood, near the soldiers monument.

The hole is almost an improvement.

The store, at 37-41 Bellefonte Ave., had already been closed for some years when a fire ripped through it in December 2016, destroying its roof and interior.

A little more than a year after the blaze, the city stepped in and hired ADM Logistics to raze the shell of the burned-out building, for $64,499.

Most of the structure is gone now, and rumors abound that a neighboring building will be razed next.

The hole is what had been the store’s basement. It will be backfilled and turned into a dirt lot as part of the demolition process, city council heard during its meeting Monday evening.

The city will then have another task, to deal with the wall the store had shared with the building to the east. That building is owned by HTD Real Estate Rentals, LLC and is a set of storefronts on the ground floor with apartments above them.

The common wall between HTD and the old furniture store was an interior wall. Now it has to be addressed to ensure that it can handle its new role as an exterior wall. The city will take care of it because the change was a result of the demolition project, according to Cyndi Walker, Lock Haven’s code and zoning officer.

The city is also placing a lien against the former furniture store property, owned by Dave Mayes and Brian Osenbach, so that the municipality will be reimbursed for the demolition costs whenever the property is sold to its next owner. (Who that owner might be or when the property might be sold are not known at this time.)

The city’s ordinance dealing with this sort of thing has been clarified. It states that when an owner fails to comply with a demolition order — as happened in this case — the costs to the city of razing, removal, engineering fees and attorney fees will be liened against the property. On Monday, council took the second, and final, vote required to officially change the language.

City council members offered kudos Monday to the demolition company for its good work and cooperation.

Rumors have been circulating that the former Town Tavern, another shuttered business just across the alley from this site, is to be demolished as well. Walker said the city has not formally pursued that idea yet.

The former furniture store was a public hazard so it had to be razed.

The old Town Tavern does not appear to be in the same category. It does have a hole in its roof, as seen in aerial photographs commissioned by The Express community newspaper.

The current demolition project will provide relief to other buildings in the neighborhood. It should allow the sidewalk to be reopened and will give Covenant United Methodist Church a chance to address damage to windows and power from the 2016 fire.

It also is removing a downtown eyesore.

MORE ON THE DOWNTOWN

Mayor William E. Baney III has expressed his concern about crumbling buildings in the central shopping district.

His interest in the downtown also has included sidewalk cafes, which he has been encouraging businesses to consider.

Last year he lead city council as it approved an ordinance allowing for and regulating such cafes. Since then Baney has offered to pay the city permit fees for the first two establishments interested in serving food and-or drink to customers on their sidewalk. So far he hasn’t had any takers.

His offer still stands — but only until Tuesday, May 15. He has decided to withdraw it because no business has expressed interest in it, he said.

The sidewalk cafe ordinance hasn’t yet changed the face of the commercial district.

“Our downtown may be beautiful with bricks and mortar,” the mayor said Monday, “but it lacks personality.”

Places where people might sit, eat, drink and relax at sidewalk tables would add some of that needed personality, he said.

He offered the example of Hammondsport, N.Y., saying diners enjoy outdoor service on sidewalks that are no larger than Lock Haven’s on downtown Main Street.

“If one person — one person — comes forward, I think others will,” he said.

FOOD TRUCK FEES

Baney also suggested the city revisit the food truck regulations that council recently approved.

Food trucks do not pay a permit fee in Lock Haven, but restaurants do.

The trucks do not even need to register in the city. They must have their state license but do not need a local permit.

Without the need for a permit, city employees don’t have to spend any time on the matter. There appears, then, to be no reason for a local fee, City Manager Gregory J. Wilson explained.

The mayor suggested a fee might be appropriate anyway. As Councilman Joel Long put it, businesses with fixed addresses contribute to the city — and the services the city provides — by paying their taxes. Food trucks, on the other hand, do not directly pay real estate taxes.

Wilson noted that food trucks must pay business privilege taxes, at least. Also, any city resident who works in a food truck would pay his earned income tax to the city, he said.

By state law, the city cannot levy a fee just because it seems like a good idea, Wilson said, adding he will look into the idea further.

GROUNDWATER QUALITY

The state Department of Environmental Protection has another set of monitoring wells planned, to continue to watch the quality of the groundwater, now that chemicals have been removed from the former Lock Haven Laundry site.

Contaminated soil was removed from the old laundry property on Bellefonte Avenue in 2016. The site was passive, but hazardous chemicals — disposed of in the ground as far back as the 1930s — had to be removed before the building could be demolished. The old laundry was torn down to make way for the CVS store development.

CVS opened at 311 Bellefonte Ave. in January 2017, after the $600,000 cleanup project.

The original set of monitoring wells installed as part of that project continue to do the job.

An additional set of 10 wells is now planned, on what could be described as the south side of the project area. The locations include the alley behind the Bellefonte Avenue Family Dollar store, next to Puff Discount Cigarette Store, across the side street from City Hall, next to the Lock Haven EMS building, in the pavement of Corning Street, and in the vicinity of Triangle Park.

AIRPORT FUELING

The mayor gave an update on his proposal to install self-service fuel pumping for pilots at the city’s Piper Airport. The FAA can fund 75% of the project, he said, leaving the city’s cost at around roughly $30,000, according to an estimate at this time.

The FAA funding would not be available, however, until other FAA grants for the airport are completed. The hangar improvement grant should conclude in 2020, so an automated fueling system probably would not be installed until 2021, Baney reported.

Self-service pumping would save the city money because a city employee would not need to be paged to conduct fueling when a plane lands before or after hours, the mayor explained.

The convenience should also make the local airport more attractive to pilots and drive more fuel sales, he said.

OTHER MATTERS

Council heard that its vice president, Stephen L. Stevenson, was re-elected by the Pennsylvania Municipal League and will continue to serve on its board of directors. His new term starts July 1 with the organization that was formerly the League of Cities.

The league provides elected officials, municipal employees and others the opportunity to network with other communities, including places like Lock Haven that host a state university, Stevenson said. It also lobbies for the interests of local governments on issues like pension plans and funding sustainability, he said.

The board of directors votes on resolutions and sets the direction for the league, he said.

Council member Sara Stringfellow received congratulations — the next time council meets, she will be a graduate of Lock Haven University.

The mayor also passed along a suggestion he heard recently from two city residents — to install a drop slot for bill payments at City Hall’s main entrance.

Residents already use the entrance as a drop slot, sliding payments between the doors, Wilson said. The city does accept payments made in this manner, he said, but cannot back-date a payment unless it has a postmark. A payment slid between the doors after 5 p.m. is recorded as paid on the following day.

Council awarded commodities contracts for 2018-19 to the low bidders:

r Hanson Aggregates Inc. of Montoursville for road stone and anti-skid material for icy streets.

r Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. of State College and HEI-WAY LLC of Sarver, Pa. for bituminous materials.

r Coyne Chemical of Croydon, Pa. for polymer flocculants for the treatment plant.

r USALCO of Baltimore for aluminum sulfate.

r L/B Water Service of Selinsgrove for water pipe and fittings.

r Core & Main of Etters, Pa. for sewer and storm sewer pipe and fittings.

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