Altman Avenue property a topic of concern

PARKERSBURG – A partially constructed, abandoned structure on Altman Avenue has been the source of complaints for several years and is now before the Wood County Commission for possible action.

John Reed, county director of building permits and compliance officer, said the property, 1008 Altman Ave., is at the corner of Altman Avenue and Hill Street, and was brought before the Wood County Abandoned and Dilapidated Building Committee earlier this month.

The committee recommended it be brought to the county commission for action.

The hearing on the property was on Monday’s commission agenda, but the address listed for the property was actually for the current property owner, Premier Bank in Ravenswood.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton advised the commissioners since the actual address for the property was not listed, the commission could discuss the matter, but could not take any action.

The commissioners decided to allow comments and discuss the matter but tabled any action until their next meeting Sept. 5.

“The first references to this property appear in the files as of August 2011. At that time I contacted the bank which owned the property and I was advised there was a buyer for the property so we closed the file for a while, but nothing happened with the property,” Reed said.

“Construction on the house began in 2010. The partial structure has been exposed since that time. It’s pretty well rotten, and we feel it is in an unsafe condition,” Reed said, showing the commissioners photographs.

“I’m concerned if a child gets in there, the subfloor is pretty moldy and it’s been weathered for all those years; if someone got in there, it’s going to fall through, and there is an 8-foot basement in there,” Reed said.

“It is eroding around the foundation; there has been exposed wood lying around on the property since construction started, and it hasn’t been mowed and there is a lot of overgrown vegetation,” Reed said.

Certified letters were sent to the bank as the property owner and the property was brought before the Abandoned and Dilapidated Building Committee.

“That meeting was held on Aug. 7 and the committee voted to bring it to the county commission and to have county engineer Bill Brown formally condemn the property,” Reed said.

No one representing the bank attended the hearing or the meeting on Monday.

Several neighbors attended, and raised concerns about snakes, mice, mosquitoes and the unsafe conditions on the property. One property owner asked the property be secured if nothing else was done.

“The county has the authority to demolish the structure and place a lien on the property to recoup the costs,” Commissioner Blair Couch told the neighbors.

Brown told the commissioners neighboring property owners have tried to mow to keep down the insect infestation.

“There are also problems with water flow. There are materials lying around, and the structure itself is questionable; timbers are cracking and the wood is deteriorating,” Brown said. “It is totally unacceptable as a residence in the condition it’s in.”

Brown noted the property needs to be regraded to allow for proper drainage.

“I was contacted about the property, and I visited it. It is bad; there is water in the basement; it’s a terrible situation,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said. “I will recommend next Thursday we do something.”

Neighbors said water runoff from the property is draining onto their land and that someone has removed building materials from the site.

Neighbor Bonnie Snodgrass said the property is a detriment to surrounding property values.

“We like to sit outside and we are constantly killing huge mosquitoes; it’s a health hazard,” she said.

“We see snakes going through there,” said Lindsey Cross.

Other neighbors said they could smell the mold on the property.

Officials said the bank had given the former property owner a construction loan and a frame for a house was put in, then the bank repossessed the property.

Under the county Abandoned/Dilapidated Building ordinance, safety and health complaints regarding rural properties are forwarded to enforcement officers and the county engineer who investigate and report their findings to the committee. The committee can recommend the case be brought before the county commission.

Once the case is before commissioners, property owners are notified in writing and the property owner can request a hearing.

If the owner fails to comply with cleanup requests, commissioners can seek bids for repairs, demolition, removal and cleanup. A lien can be placed against the property so the county can recoup the cost of cleanup.