The state might use leftover disaster-recovery funds for the demolition of the dilapidated Coxton yard railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna River, officials familiar with the issue said Monday.
State and Luzerne County agencies met earlier this month with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to discuss a funding source to remove the eyesore and hazard, privately owned by LAG Wrecking of Duryea, that’s been the focus of court orders and enforcement actions for the past few years.
Daniel Carrigan, a DCED spokesman, confirmed the meeting took place on Dec. 8. “Currently, the department is gathering information and providing technical assistance to local officials,” Carrigan said.
Chris Belleman, executive director of the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority, said his agency would be willing to help out. He pointed out that neither his agency nor the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority, which also participated in the discussions, has “a legal interest” in the bridge, but the demolition would prevent it from falling into the river on its own, causing an obstruction.
“Everyone recognizes it’s just a matter of time before one pier collapses,” Belleman said.
He said the bridge’s owner does not have the funds to tear it down, one of the two options the state Department of Environmental Protection gave LAG Wrecking in order to comply with a 2014 order. The other option was to make it structurally sound.
Pilar Glodzik, president of LAG Wrecking, could not be reached for comment.
Andy Reilly, executive director of the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority, said his agency also offered to participate.
DCED has the funding and, starting in the first quarter of next year, would look into “perhaps ranking priorities” for eligible projects for the next round, Reilly said.
The county Redevelopment Authority sold the bridge to LAG Wrecking in 2007 for $500. At the time, Leo Glodzik III, brother of Pilar Glodzik, said he intended to demolish the bridge and sell it for scrap metal. Leo Glodzik has since had his own legal troubles in county and federal criminal courts.
Reilly said the issue is “really in the DEP’s hands at this point.”
Colleen Connolly, spokeswoman for DEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes-Barre, identified the funding source as the Disaster Recovery Grant program still available from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. She said DCED is doing a needs assessment for the county and a local agency would have to apply for and administer the funding.
“We see this as progress,” Connolly said.
The DEP has already been doing visual inspections of the bridge, Connolly said. So far, the weather hasn’t been cold enough to form ice jams that would pose a threat of further damage to the piers, she said.