WELLSBURG – Brooke County commissioners said they will be taking a stronger approach against owners of dilapidated structures and unkempt property.
A county ordinance approved in 2005 states property owners may be fined $ 100 per day for the accumulation of debris, dilapidation, overgrown vegetation, fire hazard, toxic condition, accident / injury hazard or lack of ventilation, light or sanitary facilities as well as “Other conditions which cause the dwelling or building to be unsafe, unsanitary, dangerous or detrimental to public safety and welfare.”
The ordinance also allows the commission to authorize the demolition of a structure and other remedies, then place a lien on the property to recoup the expense.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Commission President AJ Thomas said the commission also may seek a judicial order for the property’s sale.
But he noted property owners also have 30 days in which to correct complaints filed against them and 10 days, following notification, to seek a hearing before the commission.
Thomas acknowledged fines and court action are tools that have been available to the commission but have been seldom used.
Instead, the late Anthony “Butch” Rotellini and others employed as part-time property inspectors have persuaded and prodded owners into action.
Thomas said Rotellini’s efforts resulted in more than 100 rundown buildings being razed by their owners.
But despite that, Thomas said, “We have files that have been open for years and no corrective action has been taken.”
Brooke County Magistrate Shannon Price asked whether assistance is available to senior citizens unable to maintain their property.
The US Department of Agriculture offers grants and low-interest loans to homeowners with very low incomes through its Rural Development program.
The 20-year loans, at 1 percent interest, are capped at $ 40,000, while grants may not exceed $ 10,000. Information can be obtained by calling the West Virginia USDA office at (304) 284-4860 or (800) 295-8228.
But Thomas said most cases faced by the commission did not involve seniors unable to maintain or repair the homes in which they live.
He said many are unoccupied properties inherited by descendants of the original owners who live away and have little interest in them, and some were acquired relatively inexpensively by private parties when the county put them up for auction because no taxes had been paid on them.
Thomas noted the county’s efforts apply only to unincorporated areas of the county.
In other business, the commission:
≤ Approved the hiring of John Cox and John Bado as part-time security guards / bailiffs for the county courthouse at the request of Sheriff Rich Beatty.
≤ Agreed to accept letters of interest in three seats representing Brooke County on the Northern Panhandle HOME Consortium. The board oversees the First-time Homebuyers program, which loans up to $ 10,000 to income-eligible first-time homebuyers in Brooke, Hancock, Ohio and Marshall counties for a down payment and closing costs for a home in the four counties.
The program is administered locally by CHANGE Inc.
The commission also continues to seek volunteers interested in serving on the county’s museum and library boards.
Letters of interest in the HOME Consortium and museum board should be sent to the office of County Clerk Kimberly Barbetta at the county courthouse while letters for the library board should be sent to Library Director Alexandra Schneider.
≤ Announced the courthouse will be closed Friday for Juneteenth, following Gov. Jim Justice’s recent designation of it as a state holiday; and Monday for West Virginia Day, the anniversary of West Virginia’s statehood.