By Rachel Dove
RAGLAND - “Kids are getting into the building and it’s unsafe,” said Benny Sawyers, as he spoke to the Mingo County Commission to express his concerns about the abandoned building at Ragland that once housed the Chafin Grade School.
“The fence is wide open. We’ve put up with this a long time and we’ve been kept on the back burner long enough, always being told there was too much cost involved,” said Sawyers, a Ragland resident.
“We are asking if there is any way the county can please have this building torn down,” he said.
The property in question is owned by Bill Chafin, whose family gave the Mingo County Board of Education the property for the school with the stipulation that if and when the school was ever closed, the property would revert back to the family. The building is now in a severe state of disrepair with portions of the roof falling in, windows broken out and walls caving in.
“The issue with demolishing this building is the cost it would take to have the asbestos removed that is in the floor tiles that becomes a health hazard when disturbed,” said Commission President Greg “Hootie” Smith.
County Attorney Glen Rutledge was in agreement with the Ragland residents that the building was an eyesore and needed to be demolished, saying that he knew they could get it condemned, adding that he had worked hard since the 1980s to have the building torn down and said the commission just has to put the ordinance concerning such circumstances into operation.
Sawyers asked if the county was willing to perform the job if the property holder could be held responsible for the cost.
“Mr. Chafin is a grown man,” Sawyers said. “He knew what he was doing when he accepted the property back from the Board of Education in the shape it was in.”
“To gain the right to go on that person’s property and demolish this building would require legal action,” Smith said. “It has to be a legal process. If you tear down his building and you use county funds, then you have enhanced his property.”
According to Rutledge, the first part of the process is to inspect the property and acquire an estimate on the cost or removing the asbestos. This would require the opinion of an expert, and Smith said he was not comfortable taking county funds to pay an inspector to appraise a job on a building not owned by the county, until a legal process is in play.
“I don’t want someone saying I’m spending county money on private property,” the commission president said. “If the commission wants to proceed, Mr. Rutledge can draft the paperwork, and if the landowner consents - fine. Then we can have someone specializing in asbestos removal to come in and give us a quote, but I’m not going over there on a handshake and a smile.”
The commission discussed placing a lien against the property to assure payment for the cost of completing the job.