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Code problems detailed at two rental properties

October 13, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown city officials have ratcheted up their efforts to improve city rental properties with the so-called Problem Property Information Campaign.

In a presentation at the City Council's Tuesday work session, city code compliance and law enforcement officials detailed problems at two properties: 19-23 W. Antietam St. and 832 W. Washington St.

"Right now, the point is just to get the word out ... (and show) that we are taking measures to deal with them," City Engineer Rodney Tissue said after the meeting.

For now, the plan is to report to the City Council on a monthly or bimonthly basis about properties city officials deem to be substandard, and their owners, Tissue and others said.

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Edward Snook, of Clear Spring, who owns 19-23 W. Antietam St., said when contacted by phone after the meeting that he was being unfairly targeted.

"My building is no worse than anybody else's. If you look at the building beside of mine, it's 10 times worse than mine. ... It's just that they got a gripe and they want to pick on somebody," Snook said.

Snook is involved in a legal battle with local prosecutors over conditions at the building. In September, a Washington County District judge ruled that Snook's apartments on West Antietam Street were a narcotics nuisance, meaning that they are considered to be used by drug dealers, users or manufacturers.

Snook said he has appealed that ruling to Washington County Circuit Court.

John Lestitian, the city's chief code enforcement officer, said at the meeting that Snook's building has continuously had roof leaks, and if they were found to be a problem next week if it rains as predicted, the city would condemn the building.

Lestitian also said large trash items are an ongoing problem at Snook's building.

Snook said he has repaired the roof and if there were problems, he would address them. As for the trash problem, he said he has had problems with people not living at his building dumping garbage there.

The owner of the West Washington Street property, William Colvin Sr., of Hagerstown, could not be reached for comment by phone Tuesday.

Lestitian said Colvin's property "is just in deplorable condition."

One of the four apartments in Colvin's building has been condemned by the city, Lestitian said. That apartment was in the midst of renovation when Colvin rented it to a woman, but there was no working plumbing or electricity in the apartment, he said.

Lestitian showed the council pictures of Colvin's property. The pictures showed gutted walls and, running through a window, an extension cord that Lestitian said was the apartment's electric supply.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she was concerned there could be an increase in rental property problems because there has been an increase in property sales.

"The city has to stay in tune with it. ... We could be right back to square one," Nigh said.

After the meeting, Tissue said it has not been determined how the campaign will continue. One possibility is that the city will maintain a list of problem properties, but Tissue said he hoped the properties would be removed from the list after code violations or other problems were addressed.

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