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Borough manager: Bunky’s condemned, but it can be salvaged; owner says 'we are doing all of this legally'

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/11/17

The vacant property commonly referred to as Bunky’s in downtown Middletown can be salvaged, but steps must be taken to prevent further deterioration, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told the …

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Borough manager: Bunky’s condemned, but it can be salvaged; owner says 'we are doing all of this legally'

The Borough of Middletown has condemned Bunky's at 10 S. Union St. as being unsafe for occupancy, following a report that was done by a structural engineer hired by the borough. The borough attached a two-by-four on the door to the rear entrance of the property, which was broken into by an unknown intruder sometime during the week of Sept. 18-22.
The Borough of Middletown has condemned Bunky's at 10 S. Union St. as being unsafe for occupancy, following a report that was done by a structural engineer hired by the borough. The borough attached a two-by-four on the door to the rear entrance of the property, which was broken into by an unknown intruder sometime during the week of Sept. 18-22.
staff photo by dan miller
Posted

The vacant property commonly referred to as Bunky’s in downtown Middletown can be salvaged, but steps must be taken to prevent further deterioration, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told the Press & Journal.

As the borough sees it, Klinepeter said, owner Al Dolatoski is “going to have to make a decision. Does he invest money into it to bring it up to code, or does he sell it to somebody else who will?”

The borough has condemned the building at 10 S. Union St. as unsafe for occupancy, following a report submitted to the borough by a structural engineer who inspected the inside of the property July 26.

In a letter dated Sept. 8, the borough denied a Right-To-Know request from the Press & Journal for a copy of the report or to see it, citing the document being part of an “investigation” by the borough.

“This could end up in court. That’s why the RTK was denied,” on the advice of an attorney with borough solicitor McNees Wallace & Nurick, Klinepeter said.

The report details at least 20 issues found by the structural engineer, Klinepeter said. Several are “obvious things” that can be seen from outside, such as broken-out windows, and bricks separating that could potentially fall on people in the public space.

Inside, the engineer found water damage from when the building had a hole in the roof, although Klinepeter believes the hole itself has been repaired by Dolatoski. 

The good news is that it does not appear that the building has deteriorated to where it has to be torn down.

“At this point the structural integrity does not appear to be compromised,” he said. But things could get to that point if the issues are not addressed. For example, enough bricks falling out could eventually threaten the structural integrity, Klinepeter noted.

Dolatoski, who lives in Lower Allen Township, received a notice of violation Sept. 22, giving him 30 days from when he receives the letter to begin taking some kind of action to address the deteriorated condition of the property.

That could include Dolatoski appealing the order to borough council.

If Dolatoski does nothing, the borough after 30 days can seek a court order aimed at compelling Dolatoski to bring the building up to code on his own, or as a first step toward the borough doing the job and placing a lien on other properties owned by Dolatoski in order for the borough to recoup the cost.

On Sept. 14, the Press & Journal sought comment from Dolatoski by going to his home.

Dolatoski wasn’t there, but his wife Joyce Sipe got him on the cellphone. 

Dolatoski told a reporter “we are doing all of this legally” but declined comment.

Sipe did not wish to be interviewed, but did say that the couple had sought a loan from the borough for Bunky’s, but that the borough turned them down.

She told the Press & Journal that the borough thinks it can obtain the property through a sheriff sale on delinquent taxes, but that she and Dolatoski would be paying them by the end of that week.

Since then delinquent taxes from 2015 were paid, according to Dauphin County property tax records. But $2,749.24 in delinquent 2016 taxes are still owed.

Dolatoski does not own any other real estate in Middletown, but under a state law known as Act 90, liens can be placed against any other property Dolatoski owns, Klinepeter said. 

“You’re going to be financially responsible one way or another,” he said.

The borough also has “a right to further steps (which) could mean he could lose” ownership of Bunky’s to the borough, he noted.

Dolatoski purchased the property in 1998 for $129,500. Over the years the borough and Dolatoski have engaged in a tug of war over what the borough contends is the owner’s refusal to maintain the property according to code.

But with the borough spending $3 million on a downtown streetscape, with surrounding properties investing thousands of dollars to improve the appearance of their buildings, and with the borough loaning another $1.5 million to Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works to re-invent the historic Elks Building across South Union Street, Bunky’s stands out more and more.

The borough had to get a search warrant from a district judge to get the structural engineer inside the property. The engineer with Baker, Ingram & Associates of Lancaster whom the borough hired for up to $1,500 delivered the report in early August.

On Sept. 28, an architect Dolatoski has hired contacted the borough’s new full-time zoning and codes officer, Al Geosits.

“He’s (Geosits) had a conversation I believe with the representative of the owner,” Klinepeter said. 

On a related note, a rear entrance to Bunky’s on the east side of the building was apparently broken into sometime during the week of Sept. 18 to 22.

A nearby resident contacted the borough to tell them that the lock had been pried off, and a crowbar found by the door. 

A borough public works employee alerted police, but more information from police wasn’t immediately available.

The lock was replaced, and the borough has blocked the rear door with a 2-by-4.

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