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Group trying to gain traction

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Citizens in Action volunteer group — sidetracked in 2020 during the pandemic — is trying to gain some traction in the new year while COVID-19 continues to rage on.

Group spokesperson Roberta Thomas said Friday she is trying to get the ear of the Common Council once again, starting with 3rd Ward Councilwoman Amy Praught.

“I’m going to talk with Amy this coming week,” she said.

Johnstown Citizens in Action is a local group of mostly city residents interested in pressing city officials about blight and unpaid taxes in the community. The group addressed the Common Council in the latter part of the 2019-20 winter with its concerns. Efforts were derailed somewhat when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring. The group started dialogue in the summer again, but Common Council meetings became harder to access with the pandemic. Thomas said the group’s efforts have lay dormant since last about October and November.

Original concerns by the group centered on certain blighted properties that Johnstown Citizens in Action was trying to call attention to.

At the Feb. 18, 2020 Common Council meeting, the citizens group cited three dilapidated city-owned buildings that at the time appeared to be idle, including roofless 124 W. Fulton St. City officials said the building was due to be razed by the city’s demolition team. The group had also referenced a partially demolished building at 159 E. State St. — another structure officials said was eventually due to be demolished. Also mentioned were out-of-town landlords who let their properties go and are delinquent in paying their taxes. Also mentioned at the Feb. 18 meeting was 6 Spring St., the former Halo Optical Products, which last used the building in 1984 and was due to be resold.

The citizens group has expressed a desire to seek grants for the city, and sit down with the state Department of Environmental Conservation on some of the property and blight concerns raised.

Thomas said it has “gotten frustrating” for her group, which has tried to get answers from public officials during the quagmire of the pandemic. But she said the efforts of the citizens group continues.

“I’ve been communicating with a few people,” Thomas said. “It’s really tough.”

She said the culture of city government right now is such that the government is probably glad it doesn’t have to deal much with the public during the COVID-19 period. City Hall is closed to the public, without appointments.

“Keeping things behind closed doors makes it easier for them,” Thomas said.

But Thomas said she and her volunteer group has heard nothing from city officials. She said if they wanted to communicate, they would make a more sincere attempt to reach out to groups like hers.

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