By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - Madonna Shapiro loves flowers. Her yard, though it is small, is proof of that. She spends time weeding her flower bed daily, assuring they receive the tender, loving care that is the key to their beauty and growth.
This hobby, however, also creates a stressful environment for the gardener when she turns around and views the deplorable sight that is less than 10 feet from the left side corner of her home. The sight, a dilapidated, crumbling, two-story wood structure that in no longer occupied, is one that Shapiro has been on a crusade for the last 7 years to have eliminated, but she says that her attempts have been to no avail.
The house in question was amazingly occupied until approximately 7 months ago when the two adults living there were forced by eviction and condemnation to relocate to an apartment, after many failed attempts were made to accomplish this feat.
“The house was uninhabitable for several years before the owner and her son were forced to move,” said Shapiro. “Windows had fallen from the house and were lying on the ground, the chimney was loose and leaning, there was garbage and ruble everywhere, upstairs floors had collapsed, the roof had large holes in it – no one could even imagine what an unsafe living environment that truly was unless they had seen it for themselves.”
Once the occupants were relocated, Shapiro said she was told the demolition of the structure would soon follow.
“That was a promise that never came to pass,” stated an angry Shapiro. “The condition of the house, if one could still consider it a house, is in far worse shape than ever before. “
“I have been living a nightmare, and that’s no exaggeration. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in – Lord, I couldn’t even tell you when.”
Shapiro resides in the home she and her family (now deceased) moved into when she was only 5 years of age. Although she moved away from WV after marrying, Shapiro stated she knew that one day, she would return home to the place of her birth that she so dearly loves. After she and her late-husband retired, they decided the time was right to venture back to her hometown. Shortly after the move,
Shapiro’s husband became ill and passed away after a lengthy battle with multiple health conditions. Although her sons, who reside in other states, begged her to move closer to them, Shapiro adamantly refused and told them she was home to stay.
One major concern for Shapiro’s sons and their families is the condition of the house next door to her.
“They are scared to death that someone will set it on fire,” remarked Shapiro. “As close as it is to my home, added to the fact that you cannot access Maple Walk by vehicle, chances of my house being spared from a fire next-door are slim to none.”
Shapiro explained that children and teens, for reasons unknown to her, utilize the steps that are located directly beside of the dilapidated house that come up the hill from behind Mike’s Tires on E. 4 th Avenue to Maple Walk, and said she has seen them many a time sitting in an old, broken-down recliner that is beside the house, smoking cigarettes.
“As dry rotted as that chair is, and all of the other flammable rubble around it, if a cigarette was thrown down that was still lit that place would be a raging inferno before you would have time to even attempt to extinguish it.”
“I have went to city council meetings, one after another….I have made countless phone calls and spoke with every agency in the State of WV that I even remotely thought could help me with this,” said Shapiro. “I’ve begged for help.”
“I’ve been told the city has no funding for demolitions, yet I see money being spent on other beautification projects and what-not, that are not matters of necessity.”
“My firm belief is that if just one of the council members or the mayor would trade homes with me for just a week or two, they would understand my feelings and would be more inclined to help me with this issue.”
And if the sight of the dilapidated, rotting structure isn’t enough to cause Shapiro concern, she and her neighbors have killed a total of 6 Copperhead snakes in the last 4-6 weeks, and since two of them were small in size and were seen coming from the yard of the condemned home where a pile of bricks remain, the residents believe a nest a snakes is most likely hid beneath them.
“The city agreed to have the chimney tore down to about the halfway mark on the house, after I took pictures into a council meeting to show proof of how it was leaning toward my home,” said Shapiro. “Veolia Water employees were supposed to come and clean up the bricks and other debris from the chimney, but that day has never come. I spoke with the Veolia supervisor at the city council meeting about a month ago and he assured me he would send someone up here.”
“We’re still waiting.”
“My neighbor’s great-granddaughter, who is only two, was bent down to pick one up when her grandmother snatched her back,” Shapiro stated. “She’s too young to sense that it was harmful and could have easily been seriously hurt, or even worse.”
“When it rains, the inside of the house gets soaked because of the huge holes in the roof,” Shapiro explained. “There’s quite a bit of old furniture still inside that is now molded and rotting, so you can imagine what a terrible stench we have to breath when the sun comes out and the temperature rises after a rain storm.”
“I believe with all my heart that there’s black mold inside there, because on the days when it smells the strongest, several of us that live here develop breathing problems that include wheezing and coughing.”
“I’ve talked to several construction companies that have given me different methods that could be used to demolish this house with minimal risk to any surrounding properties, so I know it is possible. Other houses up here have been torn down through the years so no one can tell me it’s an impossible task.”
“The city keeps saying they don’t have funding for this project,” remarked Shapiro. “I guess I need to plan a few roadblocks and fundraisers to take care of the cost since there doesn’t appear to be any chance of getting the demolition completed if I sit back and continue to wait on the mayor’s phone call telling me the city can afford it.”
“I’m embarrassed to even have guests visit me,” concluded Shapiro. “It’s a sad day when, no matter how hard I work to keep my home and yard looking good, it will always go unnoticed and will be over- shadowed by this God-awful sight and hazard next door to me.”