Vacant properties cost taxpayers, merit penalties

If you are a Williamsport taxpayer, $28,000 worth of your hard-earned tax dollars is designated to keep 15 abandoned, vacant properties cleaned up.

The cleanup may keep a structural problem from becoming worse. It may mean clearing unsightly, overgrown brush. It may mean mowing the lawn.

The bottom line is, the city is spending money to keep these properties from becoming worse. Worse can mean vandalism havens, nesting grounds for drug dealers and fire traps. That’s what happens when people with less than the best of intentions see a vacant structure with broken windows and dilapidated exteriors.

It’s encouraging that the city has cut the number of abandoned, unkept properties from the 182 counted 11 years ago.

But the money to pay for this work from the city’s Clean and Seal program would ideally be spent on something of greater benefit to taxpayers. Council President Randall J. Allison and Codes Administrater Joseph Gerardi say the roots of these expenses are usually absentee landlords who are being irresponsible.

Allison said “different legal approaches” are being considered regarding these properties. He said the city needs to become more involved with these properties before they reach the deterioration and maintenance stage.

We hope the stiffest penalties possible — particularly fines — are being considered. If someone who owns a property is just going to let it deteriorate, they should not be able to do that without some punishment.

City taxpayers deserve that.

It appears the city is making strides with these properties, but ongoing vigilance to make sure offenders are being penalized to the maximum needs to continue.

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