Four Ambridge families are displaced today after their apartment building was shut down for building violations.
Police, fire and code enforcement officials arrived to 401 Merchant St. at 11 a.m. Friday to inform residents the place has been condemned and they would have to evacuate by 2:30 p.m.
Tenants occupy four of the eight apartments on the building’s second and third floors. The building formerly housed the old Red Bull Inn.
Ambridge Fire Chief David Drewnowski said the building’s owner, Patrick Mendicino of Sewickley, pleaded guilty to violations during a hearing Thursday at the district magistrate’s office and was fined $500.
Mendicino was cited with code violations Dec. 30 that included open splice wiring, improper exit signs, non-working emergency lights and smoke alarms, and fire extinguishers showing discharge.
Officials said Mendicino had 79 days to bring the building up to code, and recently more violations were discovered. Mendicino wasn’t given additional time to fix them at his hearing Thursday. He could not be reached for comment.
Drewnowski said the building received its last occupancy permit in 2001 and it expired in 2003.
“And it’s being occupied with all these code violations,” Drewnowski said.
When officials arrived Friday, workers were attempting to fix an exit sign at the front door and were ordered to stop.
Families were blindsided as they received notices to vacate, saying they just paid the landlord rent for the month.
“This building does not need to be shut down. My apartment is stable, water running, everything is fine,” said Jennifer Krummert, who worried about finding a home for her dog.
Duquesne Light Co. has shut off electricity to the building.
Tenant Duane Eichenberg, whose son Matt McCracken and fiancé, Kelly Alsko, are being displaced, told authorities he is a former electrician who did more than 20 years of industrial maintenance, and offered to fix the electrical issues in the building.
“There’s no fixing anything, there’s no bartering. That is what it is,” a policeman told the families.
Cindy Orlowski, the code enforcement officer, gave families a hand-out of places they and their pets could go for emergency shelter.
“We want to let other tenants and residents know we’re doing our job,” Drewnowski said.
Residents will be able to move out the rest of their belongings on Monday.
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