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JT steps dispute could head to court

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    A set of steps that connects High Street to West Broadway in Jim Thorpe remains closed to the public. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published January 13. 2020 12:25PM

A dispute over responsibility for a closed set of steps leading from High Street to West Broadway in Jim Thorpe Borough may hit the courtroom in the near future.

Borough officials previously maintained the steps, which have long been used by the public as a way to access the downtown area, until a slip-and-fall insurance claim prompted them to have a survey done.

According to the borough’s survey, the steps belong to the owners of The Parsonage Bed & Breakfast, 61 W. Broadway, and the Three Towers Apartments, 49 W. Broadway.

Tom Loughery, owner of the Three Towers Apartments, and Michael Rivkin, co-owner of the Parsonage, closed them in 2017 on the advice of their insurance companies because of liability issues.

Loughery said Thursday a writ of summons was filed last year and the second draft of the complaint for a civil lawsuit is completed.

“If we’re forced to initiate a legal case we will,” Loughery said. “We really don’t want to do this, but if council won’t try to come to a resolution with us, we’ll file it. We’re trying one more time before things get really unpleasant.”

Council President Greg Strubinger said the governing body was, “advised not to publicly discuss the matter since it’s a potential litigation issue.”

When residents questioned the borough about the steps in 2017, Strubinger said the borough was surprised to find out it didn’t own the steps.

“What many thought was a public thoroughfare, as it turns out, is private property and we can’t give permission for people to use them,” he said at the time.

Though the new owners said they can’t have the steps open while they are liable for what happens on them, Loughery said he doesn’t believe any extensive repairs are needed.

“They’re solid,” he told council at a previous meeting.

On Thursday, Loughery outlined the history of the steps, noting how they were built in the 1800s with taxpayer money.

“The borough has fixed them time after time,” Loughery said. “The neighborhood needs them reopened. It changed a lot of dynamics on West Broadway. Parking has become more of an issue because people can’t park on High Street. They would have to go an extra half-mile to get down into town.”

Councilwoman Edith Lukasevich called the steps a “part of the history of the Mauch Chunk.” As for the issue of ownership, however, she said that was not a guess she was willing to make.

“I don’t know who is responsible, but I think they are necessary and they add to the town,” Lukasevich said. “It is easy access into town to go down the steps from High Street.”

Didn't the borough get a grant around 2015 to make repairs to the top of the stairs? If so, how does that alone not have them claim ownership?

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