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Properties condemned in crackdown

February 05, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Six Berkeley County properties have been condemned for not meeting the county's property maintenance code since Berkeley County officials revamped their approach to enforcing the standards.

Donna Seiler told the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday that she had fielded 107 complaints since Oct. 1, when she became the county's lone code enforcement official.

"This position is so well received," Seiler said in an interview after the commission's regular meeting.

Before Seiler began her duties, the job of enforcing the International Property Maintenance Code was handled by county engineering department staff. The staff still provides Seiler with expertise, but is no longer burdened with juggling investigation of complaints with other work such as permit inspections.

In her planning department office Thursday, Seiler pointed to thank-you cards and notes from residents who have been able to resolve issues such as tall grass and weeds, illegal dumps, unsafe living conditions and other concerns since she was assigned to be the point person for investigating all complaints.

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Of the 107 complaints Seiler has received, 49 have been addressed and are now considered closed cases, she said.

Another 17 complaints were either unfounded or have been turned over to the county health department, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources or another agency to handle, Seiler said.

Seiler said she had 42 open cases, which she said are "growing daily."

Through cooperation with other county officials, the state Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, Seiler said they were able to determine where asbestos-laden material and other remnants of a demolished home had been transported from and illegally dumped on the Bryarly Orchard property near the community of Tablers Station.

The materials, cleaned up in nine days, were dumped on a sinkhole, Seiler said. The cost of removing the asbestos was about $10,000, she said.

While efforts to improve living conditions in the community of Sportsman's Paradise is a "work in progress," Seiler said a similar project in Potomac Park Estates mobile home community in northern Berkeley County has been a "great success."

"Potomac Park ... has come a long way," Seiler said.

If property owners do not respond to violation letters or subsequent warrants to appear in magistrate court on a civil action filed by the county, Seiler said she has the authority to ask for criminal charges to be filed.

"We want to work with the public - we're not vicious," Seiler said.

County residents who would like more information about filing a complaint about substandard property conditions can reach Seiler in the Berkeley County Planning Department office at 304-267-5091 or e-mail dseiler@berkeleycountycomm.org.

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