Compliance officer gives property updates

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners will schedule public hearings on four abandoned properties which have been the subject of repeated complaints in an effort to facilitate cleanup of the properties.

One of the properties is located off West Virginia 47 and was being used as a methamphetamine lab.

John Reed, Wood County compliance officer, updated commissioners Thursday on the properties.

Under the county Abandoned and Dilapidated Building ordinance, safety and health complaints regarding rural properties are forwarded to Reed and county engineer Bill Brown who investigate and report their findings to the enforcement committee.

The committee can recommend the case be brought before the county 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.

“All four of these properties were brought before the building commission after repeated attempts were made to get the property owners to clean them up. The building commission asked they be presented to the county commission to have a date set for public hearing,” Reed said.

One of the abandoned houses brought before the commission Thursday is located off West Virginia 47 and was used for a meth lab.

“It was raided by state police back in January or February. The property is overgrown, the police removed some items from the house and they are still there, and they are considered contaminated,” Reed said.

“The state has placed stickers on the property, and there are no longer funds available to assist with the cleanup of these meth properties. Many times the landlords have no idea their property was even being used as a meth lab,” Reed said.

“So the owner is just stuck,” commission president Wayne Dunn said.

“It’s a nice neighborhood and the neighbors offered to clean up the yard, but they are not allowed because of the contamination,” Reed said. “We were told under our current ordinance we can do the cleanup.”

Reed said carpeting, ceiling tiles, porous surfaces have to be removed and everything else would have to be cleaned by someone who is certified to do so wearing a hazardous materials suit. The cost could be as much as $15,000,” Reed said.

Officials commented it might be cheaper to just raze the house.

“The basement is also filled with garbage, apparently they didn’t have trash service and they just kept throwing it down there and the smell is putrid,” Reed said. “It’s a very hot topic for the neighborhood.”

Another property that has been the subject of complaints is located on Island View Drive, off West Virginia 68.

“It had two trailers on its which have since been removed, but there is still a lot of debris around,” Reed said. He showed commissioners photographs of the property including a vehicle which has no engine in it. Reed said the property was subject to foreclosure in 2012 and the present owners had started some cleanup.

Another property that has been the subject of investigation is located at the corner of Bethel Place and Stout Street.

“The windows have been broken out, the wiring has been stripped out of the house, it’s been vandalized several times,” Reed said. “It’s a nice neighborhood and I can certainly understand why the neighbors are upset.”

“It has fallen into disrepair and they say they (owners) haven’t had time to fix it up,” Reed said.

“Well they are going to have to make time,” commented Commissioner Blair Couch.

Reed said property owners had asked for numerous extensions, but the property was still in disrepair.

A fourth property is located at the corner of Hill Street and Power Avenue and was already visited earlier by the commissioners after viewing other residences in that area that had been the subject of numerous complaints.

“This has been abandoned for some time. There are tires all around, and there is raw sewage leaking into the neighbor’s yard at the back of the house, there’s an old broken septic system,” Reed said.

“The house was left to heirs and there was a life estate involved at one time, the house is vacant, and we asked the prosecutor for a ruling on the life estate issue,” Reed said.

The commissioners set separate public hearing dates on the four properties.

“We need to get to these quickly and get them out of the way, they’ve been this way for awhile now, let’s get this taken of,” Dunn said. “A lot of businesses look at the county and this may be their first impression of the state of the community. We don’t want them to see trashy dilapidated buildings that have fallen into disrepair. John (Reed) and (county engineer) Bill (Brown) work with these homeowners to resolve these problems, but when they won’t cooperate, that’s when the county commission has to get involved,” Dunn said.