Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 23, 2013

Aggressive schedule — Demolition work welcomed in cities

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The cities of Bluefield and Princeton are taking an aggressive, and welcomed approach, when it comes to removing condemned and blighted structures.

In Bluefield, officials are hoping to remove 50 condemned structures this year, according to City Manager Jim Ferguson. And the Bluefield Board of Directors have developed a plan that calls for the removal of 100 blighted structures over the next two years. The board also is seeking additional grant funding to help expedite the demolition process.

 In Princeton, the city code enforcement department recently recorded its 460th demolition — an impressive accomplishment. And the Princeton City Council is hoping to tear down another 50 structures this year and an additional 50 in 2014.

Both municipalities are to be applauded for this aggressive demolition schedule.

With spring now here, the demolition process is expected to be expedited for both cities. Seven structures have already been removed this year in Bluefield, including a demolition project completed just last week on Highland Avenue. Additional structures also were recently removed  from Third Street and Hoge Street in Bluefield.

“Our desire is to remove these blighted properties from the city as soon as possible,” Ferguson said last week. “Our goal right now is to do 50 this year and 50 next year. We will add more to the list, but if we can obtain that goal of 100 in two years that would give us only a dozen left to go. Doing that many per year would get us down to just a few houses. It would be awesome if within two years we could have all the structures currently on our list removed. Right now there are roughly 118 that remain on the list.”

One potential funding source the city of Bluefield is exploring for future demolition’s is the Small Cities Block Grant program. The demolition program in Bluefield is currently funded through city money or when property owners pay the city to take the houses down. In other instances the work may be covered by the property owner’s insurance.

The biggest challenge facing the city when it comes to the removal of blighted structures is asbestos, according to Ferguson.

“It depends on the size of the house,” Ferguson added last week. “Sometimes we have to abate the asbestos on these houses. If the results come back with asbestos we have to remove that safely. Depending on how much time that takes, it could take three or four days just to remove the asbestos after waiting for those results.”

The removal of condemned and blighted structures in the two cities 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.

If both cities are to continue to grow, condemned and blighted structures must be removed.

We welcome the continued demolition work in the cities of Bluefield and Princeton, and urge both localities to proceed with their demolition schedules.

These ongoing efforts are literally cleaning up neighborhoods, advancing economic development and helping to enhance the region’s quality of life.