Dorothy Rhawn is concerned about the house sitting vacant next door for three years.
“There has been all kinds of people in and out of that building. It is not secure,” she said. “Doors are left open, the windows aren’t closed. It’s a mess.”
Now residents like Rhawn have a new avenue to lodge their property complaints. Ambridge has created a complaint and violation form that residents can fill out and submit to the borough.
Ambridge Council formed a code enforcement committee earlier this year to address abandoned, condemned and dilapidated properties in town, with Merchant Street as a high priority.
Councilwoman Janet Caldarelli, committee chairwoman, said the goal is to make sure proper procedures are being followed and that violators are being notified and cited.
Councilwoman Stephanie Drewnowski, also on the committee, has started a spread sheet to keep up with property concerns. She said complaints will be kept confidential.
Rhawn said the vacant house has been a thorn in her side for awhile and is becoming even more of a sore spot.
The other night, her husband saw two young girls carrying a door from the house and one day, she caught a man standing on the porch watching her home. He claimed he lost his wallet, she said.
“We should be allowed to enjoy our yard without being afraid of who is watching us and who is in that building that shouldn’t be in there,” she said.
Code enforcement officer Cindy Orlowski said the home is up for taxes and has been placed on a list for potential demolition through a Beaver County grant program. Orlowski also said she would visit the property with public works to make sure the place is secured.
Caldarelli said the code enforcement officer is doing a great job, but is only one person with a lot of work to do. With the help of the police and fire departments, she said the borough will work to identify properties in need of repair and address the problems.
“We are also inviting concerned citizens to assist with this,” Caldarelli said.
When it comes to building inspections, she said property owners are sent letters every two years requiring them to purchase occupancy permits. Rental properties are inspected once they have paid.
“Here’s the catch,” Caldarelli said. “If you do not pay for the permit, your property does not get inspected. We believe this is the main reason these individuals have gotten away with neglecting their properties.”
Officials cannot conduct an inspection without the owner’s permission. If the owner is out of state or cannot be located, this delays the process, she said.
Caldarelli said the borough must attempt to correct this by having the code enforcement officer keep records of all rental properties in town to determine how many have fallen through the cracks.
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