City working on demo schedule

PARKERSBURG – The city recently razed 11 dilapidated structures, as officials continue to work on a list for a massive demolition initiative proposed by Mayor Bob Newell.

There were 14 structures slated for demolition out of regular city funds, but 5 19th St. and 2411 Lynn St, were taken off that list after individuals purchased them from the Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority and submitted plans of action to clean up the properties.

Another structure, in the rear of 615 Locust St., is partially down already and will be taken down the rest of the way in-house, officials said.

The demolitions cost the city a total of $61,300, said Code Enforcement Director Gary Moss. Owners will be billed, and if they do not pay within 30 days, a lien will be placed on the property.

The city has been tearing down 10 to 12 dilapidated houses a year lately, but in April, Newell proposed a multi-point initiative to address slum and blight in the city, including the demolition of about 80 structures. He said at the time the list was a working document, and on Monday, the mayor and other members of the Building Enforcement Agency received updates from Moss about some properties on it, as well as new ones.

“We’ll whittle that list down to what we have to pay for shortly,” said Newell, who had proposed spending as much as $1 million to demolish the problem houses. “Hopefully, it’ll be less than what we anticipated.”

Newell originally suggested borrowing the money from local banks and repaying it over five years using money that would have gone to street repair.

On Monday, he said the city is also looking into the possibility of obtaining the money from the West Virginia Housing Fund at a low interest rate.

Some houses targeted for demolition have already come down or have been moved off the list, for now, after owners submitted a plan of action to the city.

The owner of property at 803 Hillcrest St., for example, told Moss he will maintain the lawn and secure the building for the next year.

“By the summer of 2015, he wants to have it on the ground and gone, and extend his yard,” Moss said.

The owner of a vacant structure at 1006 Broadway Ave., meanwhile, has told city officials she plans to use the site for a commercial venture.

Those properties were among 30 whose owners were sent letters by the code office recently. Moss updated the BEA – whose membership includes the mayor, Development Director Rickie Yeager, City Engineer Justin Smith, Fire Chief Eric Taylor, Public Works Director Rick Lemley and Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department Director of Environmental Health Liz Green- on the status of those structures Monday.

Some letters have been received and plans of action submitted, while others have gone unanswered. At least some of the property owners received citations for non-compliance, with penalties that start at $150 and can be assessed daily.

However, getting those fines from out-of-state owners is usually difficult and cost-prohibitive, Moss said.

One property not on the original list Newell presented to City Council was 1001 Mary St. Moss said the owner received the letter and citation on a Friday and had the structure down the following Tuesday.

But that’s the exception, he said, rather than the rule.

“That’s not going to happen more than once in my lifetime,” Moss laughed.

Officials often run into properties owned by people or companies in other states or legal entanglements over who owns or is responsible for the property.

For example, the owner of a dilapidated property at 1407 Spring St. lives in California. Moss said the owner asked the city for 30 days to submit a plan of action. It’s been nearly a month since that period of time expired.

“We haven’t heard anything from him,” Moss said.

The board voted unanimously, with Lemley absent, to move the property to the demolition list. It will likely be taken down with funds left over from this year’s demolitions.

That lowers the number of recommended demolitions from the original list provided with the mayor’s proposal to 72, although more could be added, Moss said.