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Owner of longtime blighted property signs demolition agreement

A building in Johnstown that's been considered an eyesore and safety hazard for years is on it's way down. The city says it filed a lawsuit against the owner of the Harris Boyer building a while back, but now that the owner has agreed to demolish the building, the city said it'll refrain from holding the hearing.

It's a huge building in the West End of the city that takes up almost an entire block, spanning from Fairfield Avenue to Barron Avenue behind it. The only portion scheduled to come down is the front, but neighbors told 6 News Monday it's a great start.

"You look at this every day and you're discouraged and you wonder you're still here," said Lindy Yutzy who lives nearby.

In 2011, the city of Johsntown gave owner John Hrivnac six months to clean up his property. They say he did by fixing broken windows, repairing the roof and cleaning up debris, but neighbors said it didn't help.

"The neighbors are at the place now where it's just blighted. The overflowing garbage, the high grass, we have rodents in alley down here," said Yutzy. "The neighbors are more than happy to help, to try to clean up, but we have no cooperation."

The Johnstown city solicitor told 6 News there's been a pending lawsuit against Hrivnac for code violations for a while. To settle the suit, the city said he's signed a private agreement with an Ohio contractor to demolish the property as early as this week. And the city said he's footing the entire bill -- $6,000 to $8,000.

The city also said the property will remain Hrivnac's even though 6 News found he owes nearly $20,000 in back taxes. The solicitor said those taxes will be addressed in time, but for now the city's main concern was public safety.

"I can see a better Fairfield Avenue. My parents lived on Virginia Avenue and I ran up and down that street when I was a little kid," said Yutzy. "There were so many businesses and people sat out front and we want that old neighborhood back."

6 News tried to talk with Hrivnac Monday, as it has many times in the past. He tried to avoid the reporter, but did say he wishes people would realize he's still trying to run his business, Johnstown Cabinet Works.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times