By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - The Mineral County Commission has adopted an ordinance which the county officials hope will help them address some of the properties in the county which have fallen into disrepair and become unsafe for habitation.
They also hope the officials from the county’s five municipalities will join them in the effort.
The Revised Building Safety Ordinance passed by the commissioners Nov. 10 allows for "any and all five municipalities within Mineral County to partner in this ordinance," including serving on the Building Safety Committee and sharing in an operational costs for the program.
Commissioner Richard Lechliter, who lead the charge in getting the ordinance passed, emphasized that in order to come under the jurisdiction of the new law, a building has to be considered unsafe for the public.
"It doesn’t mean you can just go in and complain about your neighbor’s tall grass," he said.
The ordinance describes an eligible property as a building or dwelling "which is unfit for human habitation due to dilapidation, which has defects that increase the hazard of fire, accidents or other calamities; lacks ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; or any other conditions … whether used for human habitation or not and whether the result of natural or manmade for or effect."
It goes on to include any property on which "there is an accumulation of refuse or debris, overgrown vegetation, toxic spillage or toxic seepage on private lands which is determined to be unsafe, unsanitary, dangerous or detrimental to public safety or welfare."
Once a complaint is received, a committee will evaluate the situation and determine what action needs to be taken. That committee is to be made up of a technically-qualified county employee or consulting engineer, county health officer, a fire chief from one of the county’s departments, and two members-at-large. The county sheriff serves as an ex-officio member and is charged with enforcing the orders of the commission.
If the committee decides to proceed with a complaint, they present it to the county commissioners and they have the property owner served with an order to remediate the problem.
Should the property owner decide to appeal the order, he can do so in Circuit Court.
Should the property owner fail to comply with the order, the commission or any of the municipalities choosing to participate can contract with someone to make the ordered repairs, or demolish the building, and file a lien against the property.
Lechliter made the motion to approve the final reading of the ordinance on Nov. 10, and Jerry Whisner seconded it.
The ordinance passed 3-0.