Negligent property owners may face jail time

NEW CUMBERLAND – New Cumberland residents who refuse to clean up their properties may face jail time under a proposed revision to the city’s nuisance law.

Meeting in special session on Friday, New Cumberland City Council gave a first reading to an amendment that would add jail time to the list of possible consequences for owning a nuisance property.

Council met despite the fact that it was West Virginia Day, a state holiday on which all government offices are closed.

The amendment calls for up to two days in jail for first-time offenders, up to five days in jail for two-time offenders and up to 30 days in jail for repeat offenders. The current penalty for violating the nuisance ordinance is a fine of $100 for every 48 hours that the nuisance exists.

City officials hope that increasing the penalties will improve enforcement of the nuisance law and, by extension, improve the look of the city.

“Our goal is to make this town as nice as possible, which means attention to safety,” Mayor Linda McNeil said. “Some of these properties are definitely health issues.”

Several property owners have been cited for unkempt properties since New Cumberland held a citywide cleanup in April. But, in some cases, the citations have not been enough to improve compliance with the law, McNeil said.

Police Chief Lester Skinner and McNeil noted that at least one property owner will require a follow-up inspection in light of the fact that there is a camper and other recently accumulated junk on his property in the 400 block of South Chester Street.

The city already has spent $4,500 to demolish a condemned building on his property last year.

“He does not comply,” McNeil said. “He keeps saying he will, but he doesn’t. So to let this continue is something we should not do.”

Another condemned building, in the 600 block of North Chestnut Street, soon will be razed now that city council has awarded a demolition contract. The red brick house was one six New Cumberland buildings condemned by the courts in 2011 – buildings that have sat vacant and blighted for years.

On Friday, council accepted a $5,700 bid from Six Recycling, of East Liverpool, to tear the house down and do it in a way that will not damage the adjoining apartment building at 602 N. Chestnut St.

“It’ll be nice to see that down,” McNeil said.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)