Mill Creek residents praise proposed ordinance

MILL CREEK — Members of the public offered praise to the Randolph County Commission during a public meeting Monday in Mill Creek that focused on an “Unsafe Buildings and Lands Ordinance” being proposed by the Commission.

Commission President Mark Scott said the commission hopes to increase property values and attract more people to Randolph County through the implementation of the proposed ordinance.

David Clark, area resident, said he applauds the commission for the effort.

“I really applaud the commission for having the courage to bring this forward, it’s well overdue,” he said.

Another local resident said something is needed to clean up the county, offering his support to the commission.

Sutton Stokes, consultant to the commission, offered a presentation to individuals in the Mill Creek community to provide details and clarifications about the proposed ordinance during Monday’s meeting.

“In a nutshell, the purpose of this ordinance is to regulate unsafe or unsanitary structures or refuse on private lands,” he said.

“We are looking at regulating unsafe properties,” Scott said. “The word unsafe is very important when you look at this ordinance.”

A summary of the ordinance reads, “An ordinance of the county commission of Randolph County, West Virginia, regulating the repair, alteration, improvement, vacating, closing, removal or demolition of unsafe or unsanitary structures and the clearance and removal of refuse or debris, overgrown vegetation, toxic spillage or toxic seepage on private land as provided for under chapter seven, article one, section three-ff (7-1-3ff) of the West Virginia state code, as amended.”

A committee of seven individuals would act as an “enforcement agency” for the county if the ordinance passes.

The county enforcement agency would include a state certified engineer, county health officer, one volunteer fire chief from within the county, county sheriff, county litter control officer and two “at large” members.

Scott added a separate rapid response team — a group made up of volunteers — will be available to assist individuals, such as the elderly, with clean up.

“In the event that there is a situation where someone is not able – for health reasons or otherwise – we have a group of volunteers, which we’re calling the rapid response team, that as long as the owner will agreed to it and sign a waiver, they will come on their property and clean up the situation,” he said. “So, we know that there are people out there that would love to clean upon their property if they just knew how to do it or who they could contact.”

One individual attending the meeting raised concern about the possibility of a volunteer being injured.

Scott responded by saying volunteers will not be directly involved in the demolition of homes.

“As far as liability is concerned, if they are working on county time, doing a county project, they would be covered by the liability coverage of the county commission,” he explained. “The rapid response team would not being tearing a house down, they would be acting as a cleanup crew. So, to tear a house down, you are going to have to get a contractor involved at expense.”

Property owners will have protections, according to Stokes, including the option of receiving a second opinion from a different engineer, holding a hearing with the county commission, entering a voluntary agreement, appealing to a higher court or other constitutional protections.

Furthermore, Stokes noted the enforcement agency would hold monthly public meetings in accordance with West Virginia code.

Individuals who attended the meeting offered suggestions and raised concerns about funding.

Commissioner David Kesling noted the commission has budgeted $25,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. Scott added this amount is a “starting point” and the county may seek additional funding later on.

“We have set aside for this fiscal year $25,000, and we will see how far that stretches and what that accomplishes,” Scott said. “There are some low interest and no interest loans available through the (West Virginia) BAD Buildings Project.”

The Randolph County Commission expects to see the proposed ordinance on their agenda for a first reading on July 18. A vote will be taken during the July meeting, and if approved, second reading and vote must be taken at a later meeting.

Individuals who wish to submit concerns or comments may do so by visiting dilapidated@randolphctywv.org. In addition, the text of the proposed ordinance can be downloaded at tinyurl.com/y4fl7n5u or at the office of the Randolph County Commission.