WEIRTON Rod Rosnick, chief code official, began the Weirton Building Enforcement Agency meeting Tuesday by introducing John Buffo, the new code official who started work in January.
Two new hearings regarding city code violations at single-family dwellings on Edna Street and Elm Street were addressed at the meeting.
According to Bruce Lamp, code official, the city received a complaint about the structure on Edna Street Oct. 15. The current owner lives out of state, and failed attempts to communicate with her led officials to enlist the help of the Weirton Police Department in obtaining a warrant. Some of the violations they found during inspection included sidewalks and driveways in disrepair, peeling or chipping paint, roof and drainage issues, collapsed ceilings, missing doors and exposed wires posing an electrical hazard.
"My recommendation would be to begin the demolition process," Lamp said.
Ward 4 Councilman George Ash Sr. asked "If they live outside of city limits, are we allowed to tax their wages in order to get some of this money back? Because if we don't, all we're doing now is taking down houses, being charged anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000. If they own the property and have a job I want to tax their wages, not just put a lien on the property."
Rosnick explained the board's abilities are limited in that respect.
"The way it works now is that we take a circuit court action against them. It would be up to the city attorney to answer that question. I'm not sure what his powers are," Rosnick explained.
Mayor George Kondik and Ash both acknowledged that this idea has been discussed in the past, but nothing has ever come of it.
"I agree with Councilman Ash that we should start this process to find out if there is any money there that we could recoup," Kondik said.
Ash noted that city residents would be granted more leniency, and this course of action would primarily take place in situations dealing with people who own property in Weirton but live and work out of town.
Agency members voted unanimously to accept the recommendation with an attached stipulation that, in addition to a lien on the property, officials attempt to tax the wages of the property owner to facilitate the cost of demolition.
When contacted by The Weirton Daily Times, City Attorney Vincent Gurrera said "The city is now looking into everyone with liens to file lawsuits and collect on judgments. Anyone with a lien or judgment who would like to handle it before a lawsuit is filed can contact me or the city manager."
He added that he would provide updates to the newspaper at a later time.
The house on Elm Street, the second new hearing on the agenda, was found to have violations including peeling or chipping paint, foundation problems, roof and drainage issues and electrical problems. Officials again recommended beginning the process of demolition.
Agency members again voted unanimously to approve the recommendation and accept the lowest bid for asbestos removal and subsequent demolition.
"Some of these houses are being lived in even after you post that they're condemned," Ash commented. "So we've got to get them down as soon as possible, faster than we are. I worry about people being in there."
In old business, the BEA expects bids due back on March 4 for asbestos removal at three dwellings on Avenue D. Those three structures will be carried to next month's meeting. A fourth structure on Elmer Avenue is scheduled for asbestos abatement Feb. 26 and will also be carried to next month's agenda.
Four more single-family dwellings are now clear of asbestos and waiting to be demolished. The buildings are located on Orchard Street, Zeta Street and Hill Street. The contractor has been repeatedly delayed by winter weather, but work should begin next week, Rosnick said.
(Dalrymple can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)