Dumps, structures garner attention in Brooke

WELLSBURG – The recurring problems of illegal dumping and dilapidated structures and efforts to curb them were discussed by the Brooke County Commission on Tuesday.

Richard Ferguson, chairman of the county’s dilapidated structure committee; told the commission letters of warning have been sent to owners of such buildings in the county’s Buffalo District and soon will go out to those in the Cross Creek District.

Ferguson said the committee is taking a geographic approach because there are so many deteriorating buildings throughout the county. While serving as sheriff, Ferguson compiled photos of about 50.

Since then the commission has formed a committee, including current Sheriff Chuck Jackson, to investigate complaints of dilapidated structures from residents.

Ferguson and other officials have said the buildings are not only an eyesore but can present a safety and public health risk and hurt the value of adjacent property.

A county ordinance against dilapidated structures gives the owners 30 days to repair or remove them. After that, they may be fined $100 per day.

If the owner fails to act, the county may condemn a structure, order its demolition and place a lien on the property so if it is ever sold, the commission may recoup the costs for demolition.

The ordinance doesn’t apply to cities, where the commission doesn’t have jurisdiction, though some have their own ordinances.

Ferguson said so far several property owners in the Buffalo District have agreed to raze their buildings at their expense, and he’s hopeful many others will cooperate also.

The county commission has been concerned about funding the demolitions of houses and other structures belonging to those who don’t comply.

The commissioners have acknowledged a $20,978 state grant awarded for such efforts won’t go far.

Ferguson said the commission will need to determine how those funds are used. He suggested priority may be given to those property owners who lack the means to demolish their buildings.

The conversation turned to illegal dumping when Ferguson said it appears someone illegally dumping near the intersection of state Route 2 and Cross Creek Road has cleared trees there, apparently to get around concrete barriers set up to deter them.

He said construction materials were found at the site.

Tim Ennis, the commission’s president, said he’ll ask the state Division of Highways, which provided the barriers, for further assistance in blocking the site.

Ferguson said illegal dumping also is a common problem in many areas of the county.

“There’s nobody who’s not touched. It’s north, south, west and east in the county,” he said.

Ruby Greathouse, a leader of the Brooke County Pioneer Trail Association; said a couch, mattress and chair were dumped recently on the trail near Short Creek Road. She added illegal dumping also has been a problem near the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel property at Plummer Field.

Ennis said, “The key is that as soon as you see something, you’ve got to clean it up or it becomes known as a dump site.”

Under state law, those who illegally dump may be fined from $100 to $25,000, depending on the volume of the trash, may be ordered to perform community service and if found guilty of dumping 500 pounds of 215 cubic feet of trash, could be sentenced to a year in jail.

In related business, Beech Bottom Mayor George Lewis told the commission volunteers with the village’s Neighborhood Watch program and others collected 40 tires and 38 bags of trash during its community cleanup on April 12.

He also announced the village will hold its Memorial Day service at 6 p.m. May 25, the Sunday before the holiday, to avoid conflicting with services held in other communities.

The commission also:

Approved the hiring of Melissa Gross and Zackary Cunningham as emergency medical technicians for the county’s ambulance service and Jeremiah Lucas as a paramedic for the ambulance service at the request of Ambulance Director Bob Fowler.

The three fill vacancies in the ambulance service.

Accepted the resignation of Glenn Kocher from the Brooke County Solid Waste Authority following 20 years of service. The commission agreed to send a letter of thanks to Kocher and to accept letters of interest in the seat for two weeks through the county clerk’s office.

Members of the five-seat board serve four-year terms and meet on a quarterly basis to discuss matters involving the county’s recycling program.

Kocher is the county commission’s appointment to the board, with other members appointed by the state Division of Environmental Protection, Public Service Commission and Soil and Conservation District.

Agreed to notify the West Virginia Association of Counties, West Virginia County Commissioners Association and National Association of County Commissions it’s withdrawing its memberships from the three in an effort to save funds.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)