Newman says he doesn’t own Elmwood property

PARKERSBURG – A house at 114 Elmwood Heights, which was the subject of earlier complaints to the county compliance office and a Jan. 28 hearing before Wood County commissioners, was again before the commission on Monday.

The individual earlier identified by the county compliance officer as the property owner told the commissioners he does not own the property.

During the previous hearing, John Reed, county compliance officer, reported he received complaints on the rental property in February 2011, which at the time was vacant. He said he was informed by Ron Newman, who Reed said owned the property, that repairs would be completed before the house was rented again. Reed said he was later contacted by city of Parkersburg code enforcement officials in January who said the house had since been rented. Reportedly repairs had not been made on the problems cited earlier. Reed said tax map records indicated the property owner was Ron and Tracy Newman. Neither attended the January hearing.

Newman told the commissioners on Monday he does not own the property; it is in his wife’s name, Tracy Skotnisk and she is currently in California. He said he manages the property and is handling the matters on her behalf. Newman said Reed’s report was “full of errors” and “omissions.” According to county records, the property deed has Skotnisk’s name as the owner. The tax records show the tax ticket for the property was mailed to Ron Newman.

Reed recommended the county allow Newman time to hire a contractor and obtain a building permit to have the repairs done, then hire an engineer to inspect the work and certify it was done appropriately, “as long as no one is living in the house.”

“This form filled out by Mr. Reed gives a wrong impression of this property. For the record, I do not own this house. It’s titled in the name of my wife, in her prior name, and she lives in California right now. I am here on her behalf to give you the facts,” Newman said.

Newman said his wife had been told by Reed she couldn’t rent the property until repairs were made.

“I have a letter from an engineer saying the house is safe and rentable, that any remaining work that needed to be done could be done to the house with the tenant in it. I rented the house based on that. Mr. Reed is just a compliance officer, and is not qualified to state the condition of a house as being unsafe. The front porch that was cracked has been repaired. And I did not assure John (Reed) we would not rent the house,” Newman said.

Newman said the house is not dilapidated, as he said it was portrayed to the commission.

“I am highly perturbed and very upset,” Newman said, noting media coverage of the previous hearing. “Mr. Reed has done me irreparable harm. He never contacted me to get my side of the story. He knew I was in California; he knew I was there until the first of the month. I’ve tried to be a conscientious property manager,” he said.

Newman said Reed should never have brought the matter before the county commission.

“I’m highly perturbed I have to be here, it implies I’m like a slum landlord and that’s not true at all. We have done everything we can do to correct this situation,” Newman said.

He said he moved the new tenant in based on the engineer’s letter. He said he had installed a new furnace and made other repairs. “But Mr. Reed talked to the tenant, which got her all alarmed. She was fine when I left town,” he said. Newman said the tenant had since demanded he return her deposit and first month’s rent.

“I refunded first month’s rent, and her deposit. In addition to losing that money, she also stopped payment on a rental check for January,” Newman said. He asked the commission to compensate him for lost rent, damages. He wanted taxes on the property waived for a year to compensate him.

“We have rules and ordinances. Mr. Reed is our employee and we direct him to keep the houses in the community safe. He works closely with the engineer, Bill Brown. Mr. Reed is just doing his job,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

“Our records indicated Mr. Newman and Tracy were the property owners,” Reed told the commission. “After contacting Tracy, I took her word the issues would be taken care of, and we set the file aside until we were contacted again. Any certification as to safety has to come from a structural engineer, but just a contractor,” Reed said. “The letter he (Newman) read from his contractor was written two years ago. As long as they get these things fixed, I don’t think the county has a real problem with it.”

Newman said as soon as funds are available, repairs will be completed.

“There is a procedure whereby the county engineer can inspect the house. If the property owner disagrees with his assessment, the property owner can hire their own engineer. If there is an appeal, it’s to be made to the county commission for a ruling. But the engineer, Bill Brown, can look at the house,” Reed said.

County commissioners agreed they would like to have Brown to take a look at the property.

Under the county Abandoned/Dilapidated Building ordinance, safety and health complaints regarding properties located in the county, outside corporation limits, are forwarded to enforcement officers and Brown, who investigate and report their findings to the enforcement committee. The committee can recommend the case be brought before the commission. Property owners are notified in writing and the property owner can request a hearing. If the owner fails to comply with cleanup requests, commissioners can seek bids for repairs, demolition, removal and cleanup. A lien can be placed against the property so the county can recoup the cost of cleanup.