WILLIAMSON – No action was taken in regard to abandoned and dilapidated buildings by the Mingo County Commission at a special meeting held Monday morning after it was determined that more files needed to be reviewed and that the proper legal procedure be followed before demolition could begin on the dangerous, decaying eyesores scattered throughout the county.
At the last regular meeting of the Mingo County Commission held Wednesday, March 1, Billie Preece, spoke on behalf of Ragland residents, concerning the future of the long empty Chafin Grade School. “We are here as a community. We want to know what you plan to do and if you have taken any action whatsoever on the Chafin Grade School? We have been at this for 25 years and two years ago the county formed a committee (The Abandoned Building and Dilapidated Structure Board) after we were the first to complain. It took us all this time. We understand that the prosecuting attorney has done his part and turned it over to you (the commission). Our question today is what action have you taken and what do you plan to do about it? I know a lot of people have discussed the asbestos that is in the building and from what I understand there is very little asbestos in there. Let me ask you a question, if you give this out for bids, whoever bids on this it would be their concern and they would have to dispose of it. What action have you taken as of today? “Preece questioned.
The process involved before the county is able to perform demolition on a dilapidated structure is lengthy and complex. Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith stated, “What we have to do is follow the Abandoned Building Resolution. Once the Abandoned Building and Dilapidated Structure (ABDS) Board does their due diligence and makes their recommendation, I can assume that the recommendation made by the ABDS was to raise the property; that it was beyond repair. What our resolution says is that once the property owner does not work with the board, the board files a complaint against the property owner with the commission.
The commission at that point, asks the prosecutor’s office to do a title search to make sure all the proper owners are notified. Once that is done, then it is before the commission and I believe that the procedure in the ordinance is the commission makes a decision and sends it to the property owner to give them the opportunity to fix or repair the problem. If the property owner does not fix or repair the problem, at that point the commission can put it out for bid. I believe that is what the process of that is.”
Preece then questioned if the title search had been completed on the Chafin Grade School and had the property owners been notified.
Smith responded stating, “What we will need to on the Chafin Grade School and the other recommendations is set a special meeting and make decisions based on the commission based on those land owners based on the resolution but no, not to my knowledge, the commission has not made a decision.”
Preece also mentioned a grant that the commission had received for the purpose of completing demolition of abandoned and dilapidated structures. “We would like to be one of your first priorities since we have fought this for so long and were one of the first to complain,” Preece said.
Smith agreed saying, “For me, it is a priority. I assure you. We know about the asbestos because we did the study on it when this was first brought to us. It is safe to say it is a priority. However, we have to follow the ordinance and the next step is for the commission to make a decision and send those decisions to the property owner and see if the property owner corrects the problem or contests the ruling of the commission then follow the next step. ”
Smith also explained that several changes have impeded and further delayed any progress concerning the removal of abandoned buildings. “We have had changes in the prosecutor’s office; we have had changes performing the title searches. That stuff has been done now. It is my recommendation that we set a special hearing to address the ones that have had the title search completed by the prosecutor’s office and move forward to make decisions. “
The commission then voted to schedule a special meeting for Monday morning. However, at Monday’s meeting, it was determined that more service needed to be done on the files. The commission voted to review the files and determine what proper legal procedure needs to be acted on before moving forward. The item was tabled to be readdressed as an agenda item at the next meeting of the Mingo County Commission which has been scheduled for Tuesday March 21 at 4:30 p.m.
Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.