Deadly 2013 Lands Wilkes-Barre On ‘Murder Capital’ List

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city’s bloody 2013 has placed it on a list of the Top 30 “Murder Capitals in America.”

The 13 homicides that took place in Wilkes-Barre made for the deadliest year in city history. The city was ranked 18th on the list.

NeighborhoodScout, an information website which compiles data on neighborhoods and cities throughout the country, used FBI numbers on homicides to create a list of cities with the highest murder rates. The report lists Wilkes-Barre as having 12 murders and does not include a case involving an accidental shooting, which the FBI classified as involuntary manslaughter.

The report says that until recently, major cities ranked among the dominating murder capitals, but this list is “populated mostly by middle-sized cities as well as smaller cities in close proximity to larger ones.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/deadly-2013-lands-w-b-on-murder-capital-list-1.1861214

Wilkes-Barre Shuts Down Unit In Sherman Hills

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — The city has shut down an apartment in the troubled Sherman Hills apartment complex where police said they found drugs while investigating a shooting.

The apartment in Building 308 cannot be rented for six months under the city’s “one-strike” ordinance that’s been enforced a number of times since it took effect on Sept. 1. in an attempt to deal with problem properties where gun and drug crimes are committed.

The woman, who lived in the apartment with a small child, and a man drove to a New Jersey hospital on Dec. 27 for treatment of gunshot wounds they said they suffered in an accidental shooting, according to police.

Catherine Thomas, 23, and Lashawn Burgman, 31, of Wyoming, told police they were afraid and fled out-of-town to avoid a police investigation.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1096899/City-shuts-down-unit-in-Sherman-Hills

Enhanced by Zemanta

New Rental Policy To Take Effect In Conshohocken

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CONSHOHOCKEN, PA – Under a new residential rental policy that takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, landlords will have to live within 12 miles of the borough or designate a person to make decisions for them in case of an emergency.

The borough council in June unanimously passed the ordinance, rewriting what officials said had been a patchwork rental code.

Under the new ordinance, each rental property requires an annual permit, and code inspections will be conducted every other year.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20131226_New_rental_policy_to_take_effect_in_Conshohocken.html#7kE6SRFgk012F7W6.99

Wilkes-Barre Council OKs ‘One-Strike’ Rental Ordinance

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — One strike.  Two readings.  Three speakers.

Mayor Tom Leighton’s plan to crack down on problem rental properties in Wilkes-Barre passed a second and final reading during a special council session Thursday night attended by a handful of residents, of whom only three spoke about the “one-strike” amendment to the city’s rental ordinance.

The ordinance will allow officials to shut down a property for six months if landlords and tenants know of criminal activity on the premises and fail to alert authorities.  It will take effect Sept. 1.

“The intent is not to penalize landlords, but to increase dialogue,” said assistant city solicitor William E. Vinsko Jr., who drafted the legislation, which he called “another tool to curb drug activity and violence.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/article/20130823/NEWS/130829985

Landlords question Wilkes-Barre’s ‘One-Strike’ Rental Policy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — A proposed ordinance to “get tough” on crime by targeting problem rental properties passed the first reading by City Council on Tuesday night, and drew a mixed response from residents and landlords.

The amendment that sets a “one-strike” limit for landlords or tenants who know of gun and drug crimes committed on the property still needs a second reading at council’s Sept. 12 meeting before it can be enacted 10 days later.

But landlord Chris Puma of Ashley cautioned against proceeding with the amendment and suggested that instead of “punishing the landlord” the city hire more police and code enforcement officers.

He presented a scenario in which the six-month shutdown of a property as stated in the amendment cuts off the revenue for a landlord who has no knowledge of his tenant’s criminal activity.  From there, the landlord conceivably can’t pay the taxes, the property ends up at a sheriff’s sale and the city loses tax revenue.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/752677/Landlords-question-one-strike

Scranton Apartment Building Partially Owned By State Rep At Center Of Controversy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An apartment building owned in part by state Rep. Marty Flynn has been the center of controversy, neighbor complaints, multiple police calls and finger-pointing among city agencies.

An agreement to allow an inspection at the request of neighbors of 1401 Prospect Ave., Scranton, fell through when Mr. Flynn and his partner reversed positions and said they would not consent to the inspection, accusing the director of the city Department of Licensing Inspections and Permits, Mark Seitzinger, of playing politics and wanting to run against Mr. Flynn for the 113th Legislative District seat.

Mr. Seitzinger originally considered seeking a court order to inspect the property after continuous complaints from neighbors Ann and Mark Wadika, but backed down.  After consulting with an attorney, he said the department has no right to inspect the six-unit building.  He denied wanting to run against Mr. Flynn for office or of having any other political motivation.

Mr. Flynn and his partner, Greg Hunt of Moscow, registered the building under the city’s 2012 rental ordinance after being questioned by a Times-Tribune reporter.  The ordinance entitles the city inspector to conduct a limited “safety” inspection of the building.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/apartment-building-partially-owned-by-state-rep-at-center-of-controversy-1.1520374

Norristown Municipal Administrator Responds To ACLU Lawsuit

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — Norristown is standing by its rental license ordinance as it is written and declared in a statement that in no way does it “discriminate against any persons, nor does it punish victims of domestic violence.”

The Norristown ordinance penalizes landlords and encourages them to evict their tenants when the police are called to a property three times in four months for “disorderly behavior,” including responding to incidents of domestic violence, according to the federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday.

“The ordinance provision currently in effect contains all of the constitutional due process provisions required to protect the residents of Norristown,” said Norristown Municipal Adminstrator

 in the statement released Thursday, “explicitly stating that no property shall be condemned for any reason under Norristown’s property maintenance code based on occurrences of disorderly behavior, and stating that no tenant shall be evicted or forced to vacate a rental dwelling for violation of the ordinance provision.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130426/NEWS01/130429637/norristown-municipal-administrator-responds-to-aclu-lawsuit#full_story

Pottstown Council Meeting Highlights – 10/12/10

The meeting was called to order by President Toroney.

Councilors Allen and Gibson were not in attendance.  (Councilor Allen arrived late, after the roll call was taken.)

Minutes were approved.

Comments from the peeps (full house tonight)

A member of the Human Relations Committee requested locks on doors and file cabinets.  Currently they have neither and sensitive documents are stored at committee member’s homes.  They also requested a computer and a database. (Now there’s a thought in 2010!!)

A condo owner from the Light Foundry complex told council that the condo owners pay their association fees each month to a manager who is supposed to be paying the bills for the complex.  This person is not doing that.  Their water is scheduled to be shut off this month.  They cannot afford to pay their bills twice.  They owe the borough $13k!  They are paying $200 a month for association fees that should cover water/sewer/trash.

A resident from E. Second St. said there is trash everywhere and the rental/Section 8 people make a mess.  The street is mostly renters.

A property owner spoke against the new rental ordinance.  He said he feels the Sunshine Law was broken and that the ordinance content has changed since being presented to the property owners.  He also stated that the ordinance does not meet the plain language guidelines as dictated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

A Pottstown landlord and realtor said she hears all the time that Pottstown is too difficult to work with from investors and prospective homeowners are also not interested in Pottstown.  She also objected to some language in the new rental ordinance.

Another landlord said he felt the Sunshine Law was broken by Council and the Borough Manager.  President Toroney vigorously defended Council and Jason by stating that this has been discussed at the last 5 or 6 public meetings and in many committees for months.  Council has been continuously advised and given drafts of the ordinance in progress.  Pottstown’s new rental ordinance is based on the Gettysburg Pennsylvania ordinance. 

http://www.gettysburg-pa.gov/applications_forms/regulated_rental_unit_application.pdf

http://www.gettysburg-pa.gov/applications_forms/regulated_rental_unit_addendum.pdf

Another opponent of the rental ordinance spoke.  She said she doesn’t think Pottstown has sufficient code enforcement officers to enforce the new ordinance.  The new ordinance gives Codes the power to direct landlords to evict tenants.

Jeff Leflar (Code Blue) read an excellent and fact-filled prepared statement outlining Pottstown’s current demographics and spoke against the low-income riverfront senior housing proposal. 

Mary Beth Lydon (Code Blue) spoke against the low-income riverfront senior housing project.  A petition was presented to council with over 70 signatures opposing the senior project.  Many people Code Blue talked to at the River Festival on Saturday were not aware of this project and did not support it.  She also outlined this demonstrated a lack of communication from the borough to its residents.

Another investor/landlord spoke against the proposed rental ordinance.  He referred to it as heavy-handed.

Yet another investor spoke against the rental ordinance.  He said it was draconian.  There are provisions for jail time for infractions.  He feels this ordinance is a turn-off to investors.

A previous Pottstown landlord spoke against the proposed rental ordinance.   It gives Code Enforcement too many powers and Pottstown doesn’t enforce the code already on the books so why are we adding more?

Another speaker was against the proposed rental ordinance, especially the security deposit language (he wants that deleted).  It’s open season on landlords.  The ordinance is heavy-handed and favors owner occupant vs. investors.

Another Pottstown landlord requested common language be used.

Katy Jackson (Code Blue & CPR) spoke about a property at 117 Washington St.  The police have been there 10 times since January!  Three police visits occurred between 9/10 & 9/11 (fight).  The renters are dangerous and have weapons.  The neighborhood needs stabilized.  She again called for a Task Force to be created to handle this problem.  Katy stated that Code Blue & CPR want the good landlords to stay in Pottstown!  She also spoke against the low-income riverfront senior housing project stating that Pottstown already has enough of this type of housing and adding more will create a stigma.  We can do better!

A North Charlotte Street resident complained to council about illegal activity (drug use, loitering and a shooting) in her neighborhood.  The police are called but if they don’t see it, they can’t write up a report.  Between January and June of this year she called the Pottstown Police Dept. 20 times.  The problem is a rental unit and the tenants.

A resident spoke in favor of the low-income riverfront senior housing project.

The Rector of Christ Episcopal Church spoke in favor of the low-income riverfront senior housing project.

A neighbor of the woman on N. Charlotte Street said he wishes he could move.  Ever since the shooting, right in front of his house, he feels unsafe and is very worried about his children.  He won’t allow them to be downstairs and they avoid windows.  They were home the night of the shooting, which occurred right in front of their living room window.  He stated he now owns a gun.  He has gotten into altercations with the rental tenants.  He stated no police came after the shooting was called in.  He said it was caught on surveillance tape.

Whew!  That was a LOT of speakers!

Mayor’s report – Puppies and sunshine everywhere.  All is well.

Manager’s report – Construction has begun on the Norfolk Southern bulk transfer station on South Keim St.  We can expect the railroad crossing to be upgraded as the result of construction (Hallelujah!).

There will be a store front wiindow decorating contest downtown for Christmas.

There is a cooperative effort between PSD and the borough to rehabilitate 22 E. Second Street, using PSD students.

There is a group that uses the Schuylkill River to promote tourism and marketing for towns in our area.  Jason attended their meeting.

As a result of the First Suburbs initiative Pottstown, Norristown and Coatesville are talking about Section 8 housing issues such as vouchers and inspections with HUD.

If all goes well in November they can advertise for the new PAID Director position.  That won’t come SOON ENOUGH IMHO!

Due to declining attendance, Jason is looking to have one last joint Ward meeting on November 10th at the First Church of the Brethren on York St.

On October 20th, Norristown and Pottstown will have a joint council meeting here in Pottstown to discuss common issues.

Jason is trying to organize a meeting between Council and PDIDA to work with existing business owner’s downtown.

It’s budget time.  One item Jason mentioned was that for years 3, 4, & 5 it was hoped that Rickett’s would have become self-sustaining. Until he speaks with Olivet about the borough’s contribution for Rickett’s, that is a gray area for the budget.  Money was not budgeted for those years hoping Rickett’s would not need assistance from the borough.

The Pottstown Authority wants a review of the water fund budget.  They want costs moved into the general fund.  This will be discussed further at Finance.

Motion to adopt the new rental ordinance passed unanimously.

The low-income riverfront senior housing project passed unanimously.  The Lincoln underwear factory property, where the riverfront low-income senior housing will be built, was appraised at $470,000.  The two lots are 1 ½ acres.  Welcome to Pottsamucil.

The motion to authorize the joint venture between PSD and the borough passed unanimously (22 E. Second St. rehabilitation by PSD students).

The motion to authorize the submission of the Pottstown Skyline Lighting Project to the Montco Community Revitalization Board was approved and the project was made the number 1 priority as part of the vote.  (Think boathouse row downtown).

Motion to approve the submission of an EPA grant for Brownfield cleanup at Bethlehem Steel aka the Pottstown Industrial Complex was approved.

Council labored over the Mrs. Smith’s site again regarding the last mustard colored building (Foil Company) and what to do with it.  The options are: do nothing and keep the $85k, paint and keep $45k or do the mural and keep $45k.  They chose Option 2, paint and keep $45k.  $85k is in escrow from the developer for esthetics regarding this building.  Nobody likes the color much.

The bills were paid and the meeting was adjourned.

Editor’s note: Councilor Kirkland (Ward 7) felt the need to give a diatribe regarding opposition to the low-income riverfront senior housing.  Using a move from Tom Hylton’s playbook, Mr. Kirkland berated those opposed to this project as spreading misinformation and not caring about Pottstown.  Mr. Kirkland, have you been paying attention to people who use this methodology?  They end up like the Shade Tree Commission.  A word to the wise is hopefully sufficient.

Bucks County Borough Takes A Tough Stand On Rental Properties

The small borough of Trumbauersville, Bucks County, is ensuring their rental properties are up to snuff!  Trumbauersville Council has approved annual rental inspections and property owners are required to have a residential rental license (yes, there is  fee) for each unit.  Much larger Quakertown has similar ordinances on their books.  Trumbauersville is located in Milford Township over near Quakertown.

These new regulations are a direct result of problems which have been reported to the borough and in some cases involved out-of-town property owners (absentee landlords).  There are 50 rental properties in this .4 square mile borough of 1059 souls.

Recently, a fire inspection of a vacant rental property found maggots in the refrigerator and 5 dump trucks full of trash inside.  The Code Enforcement Officer will use a checklist and report his findings to the property owner who in turn has a set amount of time to make corrections or appeal them to Borough Council.

This ordinance has some teeth to it (imagine that).  Landlords living more than 20 miles from town must has a property manager living or working within 20 miles of the borough or a license will not be granted.  If tenants have three disruptive conduct reports on file within a twelve month period, they will be evicted (disruptive conduct includes public drunkenness and fighting for example).  Violations of the new ordinance can lead to fines or imprisonment!

Some food for thought if we are serious about cleaning up slumlord and rental property issues in Pottstown.  If tiny Trumbauersville can do it, why can’t Pottstown!?!