Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


December 18, 2012

Blight removal

Welcomed progress in Mercer cities

— — For many years, too many neighborhoods in Mercer County have had a local eyesore. It might have been an abandoned home with an out-of-state owner, a neglected store or an outbuilding on the verge of collapse. The dilapidated structures were hazards to children, havens to pests and lairs for criminal activity. Thanks to ongoing efforts in Princeton and Bluefield, the number of eyesores is steadily decreasing.

In Princeton, the city’s code enforcement office has seen the demolition of more than 430 dilapidated structures. In many cases, crumbling trailers have been scrapped for recycling. Better still, the city has not had to pay for all of these demolition projects. Property owners and grants have covered much of the costs.

Bluefield is also seeing more condemned structures starting to go down. The latest round of demolitions will bring down some old business buildings on the 800 block of Bland Street. In other parts of the city, neighborhood eyesores are being removed.

Removing these old, vacant structures go a long way toward improving public safety. Each demolition removes a hazard to public health and improves property values. Nobody wants to move next door to a proverbial rat nest.

City officials face many challenges while trying to remove dilapidated buildings.

In many cases, the owners live hundreds of miles away and cannot be located. Then funds have to be found with grants or the cities have to pay for the work themselves.

It is work that must be done. Demolishing dangerous buildings is not just about making communities look better. The effort is also an important part of economic development. New businesses are not going to establish themselves in cities that, frankly, look blighted. Ruined, abandoned structures are associated with decay and failure. That is not an association cities need if they want to improve the local economy and bring in new jobs. Entrepreneurs visiting from outside the region need to see vibrancy, not decay.

Officials in both Princeton and Bluefield should be applauded for the work they have put into removing blighted structures from the landscape. Many more remain to be demolished, and it may take years to remove all of them.

The beckoning results, better neighborhoods and a better economic climate, are well worth all the expense and effort that goes into condemning and removing local eyesores. When the blight is removed, there will be more room for the future.

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