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Tenants removed from Park Avenue apartment building; borough code enforcement officer says structure is unsafe

On Tuesday, Tyrone Borough Code Enforcement Officer James Metzgar received a complaint dealing with an apartment building at 704, 706 and 708, Park Avenue. Metzgar went to the property and did a site inspection. In the back of the property, he found numerous violations under Ordinance No. 1216 of the Property Maintenance Code.
“What caught my attention was the rear roof, which has some structural issues,” said Metzgar. “There’s partial collapse right now (it was buckled), and any time you get into a roof where there’s structural issues involved, it’s an unsafe building.”
“The roof covering the front porch, garage and overhang is in very poor condition also,” said Metzgar. “The fascia board and joist members are deteriorated and exposed to the weather elements.”
Metzgar also stated that the back of the property contained rubbish, garbage and animal feces. He said there was a hatch basement that was completely open and causing a hazard.
“It’s just unsanitary conditions and absolutely unacceptable for any use of the building,” added Metzgar.
Other violations Metzgar reported were: a utility shed in the rear of the property had collapsed and is causing a hazard; numerous windows are missing and/or cracked and broken; and all insect screens and doors are missing and/or in very poor conditions.
Metzgar contacted the property owner, Jim Phillips of Tyrone, and notified Phillips that he was putting a Condemnation Notice on the building and that as the property owner, he had to notify his tenants that they needed to vacate the premises due to the structure being unsafe.
“I made an agreement with him that I would give them (the tenants) enough time throughout the night and partial morning to vacate the building, but after that, no one’s allowed back in the building,” said Metzgar.
The tenants of the three apartments were displeased, according to Metzgar, who had a police escort when issuing the Condemnation Notice. The tenants were all out of the apartment building by late Wednesday. He said his job is to make sure the buildings and structures are safe in the community, which he felt the Park Avenue structure was not presently safe for occupancy.
Phillips wasted no time to begin addressing the violations at the property. Metzgar said he informed Phillips of what needed to be done and he contacted a contractor to begin the process. The rubbish and garbage behind the property was already cleaned up Wednesday morning, and Metzgar commended him for his quick actions.
“I just let him (Phillips) know all the structural issues need to be taken care of first, to allow any occupancy back into the building,” added Metzgar. “Once all the structural issues are taken care of, he then can proceed with other violations that were addressed at the premises.”
On Wednesday, Phillips was given a compliance date of April 21, 2008 to address the building’s violations dealing with the rubbish and garbage on the property. Since Phillips has already complied with the trash issue, his next step will be to address the structural issues so the tenants can move back in.
Phillips didn’t agree that there was a structural issue with the building. He said that the roof Metzgar referred to was a porch roof, and that it didn’t warrant the tenants being removed from the premises.
“The tenants are irate about it, and I understand,” said Phillips. “But that’s his (Metzgar) call. I’m doing what I can to get things fixed up down there. I don’t have a problem fixing the things.”
He added, “I got the notice when the tenants did. I don’t think they should put the tenants out. It was blown out of proportion.”
Metzgar stated that this is a “very good example” of how to get the property owners working together with other property owners in the area with property maintenance. He said that he will continue to respond to complaints within the area, and that property maintenance is the issue he will be addressing this spring and summer.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Metzgar. “It takes just one property in the neighborhood to really degrade the rest of the properties in the area.”