Mayor Lou Mavrakis drove slowly through Monessen, block by block, pointing out one vacant, blighted building after another in the city of 7,700 along the Monongahela River.
“That belongs to me,” he said, pointing to a house with a collapsing roof that has become the responsibility of the city and the mayor.
Tax records show the building is one of 264 structures and lots in the city that have been abandoned by their owners. More than 26 percent of the city’s 734 blighted properties are owned by people from 24 states and five foreign countries, beyond the legal reach of Monessen officials.
“It’s almost impossible to get in touch with these owners,” Mavrakis said.