Thursday, March 28, 2019

Blight is a problem for rural towns, too; some fight back

A home in Marianna slated for demolition. (Observer-Reporter photo by Holly Tonini)
Blight is a well-known term, conjuring images of crumbling urban buildings and roads, but many rural areas suffer from it too, especially those with economies that depend on declining industries.

That's the case in Washington County, in rural southwestern Pennsylvania: it and neighboring counties were once prosperous from coal, depending on jobs form the Marianna Mine. But these days many towns in those counties are "dealing with dozens of abandoned and neglected properties, absentee landlords, crime and safety concerns, a diminished tax base and a heap of filth," Rick Shrum reports for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa.

Marianna, a borough of 475 just south of Pittsburgh, is working hard to fight back blight. Washington County recently awarded the borough $100,000 to address blight. The borough is clearing 21 blighted properties and has already completed work on, Shrum reports.

It's an important task for several reasons, Marianna leaders told Shrum. It clears the way for properties to get back on the tax rolls, beautifies the community and makes it safer; Councilman Wes Silva recalled an incident a few years ago in which falling bricks from a dilapidated building almost hit a young child. He said about six homeowners living adjacent to the blighted buildings have expressed interest in buying the cleared lots to expand their property.

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