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Cleanup law considered

September 16, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Help may arrive soon for Jefferson County residents who are tired of burned-out shells of houses with overgrown weeds or piles of debris in their neighborhoods.

The Jefferson County Commission has been able to tear down dangerous buildings by placing liens on them, but it's a costly process, said Commissioner James Ruland.

Now the commissioners are considering a new law that will make the cleanup easier.

Through the proposed "abandoned building legislation," the commissioners would be able to set up an enforcement agency that would investigate complaints about problem properties.

If the agency agrees a property is a health or safety hazard, a fine of up to $25 a day can be assessed against the owner until the problem is resolved, Ruland said.

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The county also could arrange for a contractor to tear down a dangerous building and seek reimbursement for the cost of demolition through circuit court, he said.

Ruland said the commissioners were given the authority to pass the ordinance following an act of the Legislature earlier this year. The law would be similar to some used in cities, officials said.

Ruland said there are problems with unhealthy or hazardous properties throughout the area. He said he counted eight such properties while driving across the county on W.Va. 9 one day. Unsafe buildings that are abandoned can create other problems, like rat or cat infestations, or they can harbor drug activity, Ruland said.

"It's like a magnet for bad news," he said.

Ruland said he does not know when the commissioners will vote on an ordinance setting up the new law.

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