WILKES-BARRE — Demolishing the former Academy Market looks to be easier than locating the owner of the dilapidated structure.
The South Wilkes-Barre eyesore is scheduled to come down starting Friday, when A.R. Popple Construction gets to work. The city last month awarded the company a $19,000 demolition contract.
The cost of tearing down the unsafe property will not come out of the city’s general fund. City Administrator Ted Wampole said federal Community Development Block Grant funds will cover the cost.
Still the property owner, Kapustensky Realty LLC won’t be let off the hook, Wampole said.
“If they’re not going to knock it down we will absolutely lien the property and exhaust every avenue to recoup that money,” Wampole said Tuesday. And that includes working with the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Wampole added.
But based on the lack of success during the past few months to find David Kapustensky or anyone from his company, the city might not recover any of the demolition cost.
No one from the realty company has paid the $2,300 in citations issued earlier this year by the city for safety, health and quality of life violations. The realty company also owes $5,013 in back taxes to the city, county and Wilkes-Barre Area school district for the property at 121-123 Academy St., according to the Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau.
Three separate summonses have been either undeliverable or unclaimed by the company, which listed an address of 503 Carey Ave. on its certificate of organization filed last August with the state’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. A summary trial on the violations is scheduled for June 19 before District Judge Rick Cronauer in Wilkes-Barre.
The address is the same as a property owned by Michael and Carol Smith of Wilkes-Barre, according to the Luzerne County Tax Assessor’s Office.
Carol Smith is a former city employee who answered the Help Line reinstated by Mayor Tony George when he took office in January 2016. She retired from the job, which paid $54,000 a year plus benefits, in September 2017. The position hasn’t been filled due to the city’s financial struggles.
Smith’s daughter Courtney bought the former market around the corner from her insurance business on South River Street for $9,000 in October 2016 in a tax sale, according to the county Recorder of Deeds. She sold it for $1 to Kapustensky Realty LLC a year later, county Recorder of Deeds records showed.
Courtney Smith told a reporter the realty company was a tenant in the Carey Avenue property. She said she did not know how to get in touch with anyone from the company.
Several messages left at the telephone number listed for the company on a state realty tax statement filed with deed were not returned.
Wampole said the city “in no shape or form” is doing anyone a favor by proceeding with the demolition. The building is a nuisance property and the city decided to “take the matter into our hands for safety reasons,” he said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.