Former Elkins mayor explains involvement

I never thought about writing a letter to the editor to complain about our city government. I have been a part of city government and made more than my share of mistakes. The ongoing discussion about how to deal with vacant and dilapidated structures hits close to home so I decided to vent in print.

When most of us hear about something like the Town Hall meeting, we think it’s a bunch of crazies with a cause trying to get their name in the paper. When you find out they are talking about your issue, your attitude changes. I am sure I would never have gotten involved otherwise. The old cliche, “if it’s not in my back yard it’s not important” certainly applies.

The reason I am involved is because I live 15 feet from a dilapidated house which has been broken into so many times that the splintered back door is now covered with a piece of plywood. No one knows how much stuff has been stolen. There are half-burned candles laying around. It’s not a good feeling to go to bed every night worrying about your house burning down.

The house has been vacant for about six years. I mowed the grass and kept the vegetation cut back until this year. I hauled eight pickup loads of bushes and trees that were piled up in the backyard from Hurricane Sandy because the varmints and snakes were resting in it. I put out pet-approved poison traps and found nine dead river rats.

We recently decided to sell our house and get away from the mess. The realtor’s suggested selling price was lower than an appraisal 10 years ago. Thank you, dilapidated house owner and City of Elkins.

This is why I am so passionate about trying to get the city to enforce their own ordinances and get these properties cleaned up or torn down when necessary.

I know from experience this is a very small part of what the city must deal with, but when over 300 people sign a letter asking the city to do something and their response is to form a committee, that makes me wonder! A lot of people expect much more, like a commitment to take some action.

I have heard comments that we just got anybody to sign the letter. I got several people to sign; however, they are not just anybody. They are voters who are very concerned, as I think most of the 300 signers are.

I wonder if something would be done if a council person or the mayor lived in my house or one of the houses near all the other dilapidated structures.

At the last Town Hall meeting we were informed by local attorney Ty Nestor that there is no legal way to compel a city to enforce its laws. It appears the only remedy is to take it to the voting booth.

Thank you, Councilwoman Linda Vest, for your support.

Jimmy Hammond