PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission has been able to have six dilapidated houses torn down and properties cleaned up this year with more on the way.
On Thursday, the commission discussed the property at 10040 Staunton Turnpike, Walker, with Wood County Compliance Officer Sarah Robinson.
Pictures showed trash and debris scattered about the property, some vehicles (including a mower) that aren’t operational, a metal barrel that was punctured and more.
The commission is planning to bring the property owner in for a hearing to see what can be done to clean up the property.
The commission regularly has hearings with property owners whose properties get to a point they become a concern to neighbors and others. Some properties have dilapidated and unsafe buildings, trash and debris and other concerns. They have had a property with an unregulated septic system with raw sewage floating on top of their grass which becomes a health hazard.
“We continue to bring people in who have dilapidated or unsafe structures and that is the goal of the commission,” Commission President Blair Couch said. “We don’t want kids getting into an unsafe structure, we don’t want it to become an eyesore for their neighbors.”
The county works with property owners to get the property cleaned. In some cases, the property owners don’t have the resources to get the properties cleaned, so they deed them over to the county and the county cleans them. That has included removing trash and debris and tearing down structures no longer fit for human habitation. Liens can also be put against the property to help cover the expenses.
“We only knock them down when they are unsafe and unsecure,” Couch said. “We don’t do this for someone who just needs to paint their house or something silly like that.
“It is not a beatification issue, it is a safety issue. We hope people understand that.”
Commissioner Jimmy Colombo said there is due process that is gone through with each property owner.
Currently, the commission is looking at around 25-30 properties in need of some work. They go through a process to meet with the property owners and see what can be worked out and make progress.
“We understand in this economy and life in general gives people difficult situations,” Couch said. “We are hopeful they understand the need.
“Neighbors don’t deserve this. If they have small kids that wandered over (to unsafe properties), we could have a tragedy.”
Commissioners also don’t want situations of having abandoned houses that are occupied by squatters. In the past, a number of abandoned houses have caught on fire from squatters breaking into abandoned houses and starting fires to try to keep warm.
Couch said the City of Parkersburg is working to address such properties and they are doing it in the county.
“Everything is based on complaints,” he said.
The county does not have people driving around looking for issues. People make complaints and they are investigated to see if action is required.
“It is all a matter of taking pride in their property,” Commissioner Robert Tebay said.
The commission could have a couple more properties cleaned up by the end of September.
In other business, the commission will hold its regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 15, at the Phelps-Tavenner House at 2410 Camden Ave. to commemorate the first meeting of the Wood County Commission which was held on Aug. 15, 1799, at the home.
Brett Dunlap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org