Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


August 13, 2013

Military muscle —  Guard proposal could help Bluefield

City Manager Jim Ferguson is hoping to recruit members of the National Guard to help with demolition projects pending across Bluefield. It’s a good idea that could help the city in expediting the removal of dangerous and blighted structures.

Ferguson said the city applied last week to participate in the Assistant Secretary for Reserve Affair’s Innovative Readiness Training program, a military assistance program that helps government entities and organizations while simultaneously providing training for members of the National Guard.

If approved for participation in the program, the city would like to use the guardsmen to help with the removal of about 100 condemned structures across Bluefield.

“They bring the National Guard members into the city to work,” Ferguson said last week. “We will provide the Guard with training opportunities they may not normally have, such as demolition and operating heavy equipment. It’s a training activity for them and a huge help with reducing blight in our city.”

City crews rather than contractors typically perform demolitions in Bluefield because it is cheaper to complete the work in house. However, using city crews also slows down the demolition program because the street and public work department employees also have  other duties to perform as part of their daily jobs.

With the help of both the guardsmen and in-house crews, Ferguson estimates that the city could make a more significant dent in the number of condemned structures still to be demolished.

“Demolitions are a high priority for our city because of the economic development opportunities they create,” Ferguson correctly notes. “The faster we get these properties down the sooner we can open those properties up to new development. If we are approved, this program would be huge for our city.”

At this point, officials do not know when they will learn if their application has been approved or rejected. It is our hope that the city application will be approved.

The removal of condemned and blighted structures in the city is important for a number of reasons.

Left unattended, these structures become eyesores that subtract value from surrounding properties. The structures also can become havens for vermin, wild animals, and drug dealers and a hazard for neighborhood children. And blighted and condemned structures also can detract from economic development efforts in an area, as well as new home construction.

The demolition program is literally cleaning up neighborhoods, advancing economic development and helping to enhance the region’s quality of life. It should continue — and with hope military muscle will help with future demolitions.

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