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If Bunky’s is sold, what should replace it?: Editorial

Posted 4/25/18

“He’s had a ton of chances and many years to do that repair. At what point are we taking the building? I don’t know how many chances you give.”

We agree for the most part …

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If Bunky’s is sold, what should replace it?: Editorial

Posted

“He’s had a ton of chances and many years to do that repair. At what point are we taking the building? I don’t know how many chances you give.”

We agree for the most part with what Mayor James H. Curry III said during the March 19 Middletown Borough Council meeting.

He was referring to the owner of the property from 10-12 S. Union St., known as Bunky’s.

The borough already condemned Bunky’s as unsafe for occupancy, based on the Aug. 2, 2017, report submitted by a structural engineer following a July inspection.

Then, on March 26, borough Chief Code Enforcement Officer Al Geosits filed a summary citation violation of the property maintenance code against property owner Al Dolatoski. The citation was filed with District Judge David Judy.

The citation refers to $4,173.86 in unpaid water and sewer bills that the borough says Dolatoski owes on the property. Dolatoski also owes $5,469.48 in delinquent property taxes on the Bunky’s property for 2016 and 2017, according to online county records.

A summary trial in the matter has been scheduled by Judy for 11 a.m. May 8, at Judy’s district judge office in Royalton, according to online court documents.

The building is an eyesore from the outside. Based on reports, the inside is also in disrepair.

Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter and Geosits have both said that they believe Bunky’s is structurally sound, even though recent problems date back to 2012 when Dolatoski received a notice of violation from the borough following an inspection of the property over concerns about a leaky roof. The 2012 notice referred to unsanitary conditions in the building as a result of garbage, rotten food, insects, and potential signs of mold and mildew. The letter also referred to water damage raising concerns about the stability of the front wall, and bricks along the front line having fallen unto the sidewalk.

Then-borough Solicitor Adam Santucci and Geosits recently referred to supposed efforts by Dolatoski to sell the building, but nothing has materialized.

“I have no idea why there is not a for sale sign” in front of Bunky’s, Geosits told council on March 19.

We don’t know why Dolatoski chooses to keep the property. It is his right to own it, of course, but it’s not his right to fail to pay taxes or water and sewer bills.

We would prefer that the borough not “take” the building, as Curry suggested. We don’t want the borough to be a landlord to any more properties than is absolutely necessary. The McNair House is gone, fortunately, but the Elks Theatre is still in Middletown’s possession, with no action on the front in sight.

So whether someone steps in and buys Bunky’s from Dolatoski or the borough takes possession and eventually sells it, the question remains: What should be located there? If the borough does take possession, would it consider tearing it down for parking instead of trying to sell it? There are already about 20 parking spots in the rear.

If a private owner buys it, what kind of business would succeed there? Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works is now home to a coffeeshop, making another one across the street unlikely. Also, the former Interfaith Senior Service Thrift Shop next to Tattered Flag is going to be up for lease, creating the possibility of competition for retail space.

We have spoken before about the possibilities in the downtown once the Emaus Street extension is completed and the pedestrian bridge from Penn State Harrisburg across West Main Street to the new Amtrak station is completed. It will be much easier for students to visit downtown. We also have mentioned the potential that the two new hotels near the airport bring for downtown businesses.

We don’t have a list of grand ideas for Bunky’s … or the former thrift shop location. It would seem that a bike shop might be a possibility, especially one that caters to Penn State students. Would another restaurant succeed?

We are anxious to see what Union Street between Emaus and Brown streets looks like in a few years. The potential exists. We need some solid business owners to take advantage of it.