Schuylkill County Land Bank completes first renovation project – Republican & Herald

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MINERSVILLE — Recently more than $40,000 in public and private funds were used to renovate a blighted home in the borough.

On Wednesday, representatives of the team in charge of the project, Schuylkill County Land Bank, and local supporters met at the property at 228 Lewis St. to see the improvements and celebrate the achievement.

It was the land bank’s first big project.

“Hopefully, this property will soon be back on the tax rolls,” Walter Miscavage, a borough council member, said.

Those interested in buying the three-story, three-bedroom row home can contact Schuylkill Community Action, Pottsville, which is serving as the real estate agency for the land bank, Jeffrey A. Feeser, SCA’s director of housing, said. Prospective buyers need to meet SCA’s income guidelines: a single person must make less than $41,000; a couple less than $47,000; a three-member family must have an income less than $52,900; a four-member family must have income less than $58,700; a five-member family must have income less than $63,400; and a six-member family must have an income less than $68,100, according to the SCA flier for the property.

Formed in early 2016, the Schuylkill County Land Bank is the first land bank established in the county since the state House and Senate approved Act 153 of 2012, which enabled municipalities to create them.

In July 2016, Wells Fargo donated the property to the land bank. It was a foreclosure property, according to the land bank’s consultant, Chris Gulotta, a blight consultant with Gulotta Group, Carlisle. Wells Fargo also donated $10,000 for the property’s rehabilitation.

“A total of $32,500 in state Act 137 of 1992 (Optimal Affordable Housing) funds were allocated for the property. The money goes to the county and the county Act 137 board approved the funding,” Ian Mahal, Minersville borough council member, said. Mahal is also the land bank’s secretary/treasurer.

In November 2016, the land bank hired William G. Davidson Electrical, Port Carbon, as the general contractor.

On Wednesday, the project was 99 percent complete, Gulotta said.

“Seven replacement windows will be in next week,” Gulotta said.

More than 20 people showed up to the property’s ribbon cutting Wednesday. They included Kenneth Karlavage, a Delano Township supervisor and the land bank’s chairman; Carl McBreen, Minersville Area superintendent and the land bank’s vice chairman; George F. Halcovage Jr., Schuylkill County commissioners chairman; Greg Collins, Wells Fargo regional banking area president, Kingston; Shane Minnich, Wells Fargo district manager, Frackville; Edward Kleha, chief aide to state Rep. Neal P. Goodman, D-123, Mahanoy City; and Mary Beth Dougherty, staff assistant to state Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Township.

“On behalf of the county, to Wells Fargo, your donation is very much appreciated,” Halcovage said during a presentation inside the home.

A land bank is a public or community-owned entity established to acquire, manage, maintain and repurpose vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“They couldn’t just take a property that was beyond repair. It’s projects like this which make the land bank work,” Halcovage said.

“I believe if people see what’s happening with projects like this, we can bring back the area, not only Minersville, but Shenandoah and Mahanoy City. It just takes a step at a time,” Kleha said.

“It was a somewhat slow process and I remember worrying about where we were going to find funding for it. But here we are tonight celebrating our first project. It’s awesome,” Dougherty said.

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