Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 17, 2013

City tears into demolitions

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — City crews will be taking an aggressive approach in removing structural blight as part of a plan to raze 50 residences this year through the city’s demolition program.

City Manager Jim Ferguson said the city has developed a plan to take down 100 blighted structures during the next two years to reduce the number of buildings on their demolition list.

“Our desire is to remove these blighted properties from the city as soon as possible,” Ferguson said. “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 on that remain on the list.”

Ferguson said the city is also pursuing grant funds to help the demolition project move at a quicker pace.

“I am looking for other resources that would enable us to move faster,” he said. “Whatever means I can come up with to get these blighted properties removed would only make this process that much faster. There is a Small Cities Block Grant that may be available for demolitions, which would help fund this program if we could obtain it. Currently, the demolition is funded through city money or when property owners pay the city to take the houses down. Sometimes, insurance will pay for us to take it down after a fire or incident like that.”

So far this year, Ferguson said the city has already taken seven structures.

“We have started off really good this year,” he said. “We have taken down seven houses to date. We have removed two houses off of Third Street, three of off Highland Avenue and a couple off Hoge Street. We are off to a good start.”

Ferguson said asbestos is one of the biggest challenges during the demolition process.

“It depends on the size of the house,” Ferguson said. “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.”

Ferguson said the city is trying to streamline the demolition process by doing asbestos abatements ahead of time.

“We have one city employee who is trying to stay ahead of the asbestos,” Ferguson said. “He samples the houses before we are ready to demo them so we know before we have to bring in the demo crew. That lets them move in really fast instead of having to wait until the asbestos is abated.”  

Ferguson said the spring and summer months provide the best weather for demolition.

“As far as the actual demolition, it can depend on the structure and on how the structure is located on the property,” he said. “Sometimes, it is difficult to get to these structures so we have to come in from a different direction. Sometimes they are on steep inclines or a hill, which are difficult to get to even in good weather. Good weather definitely makes it easier for demolition. Dryer conditions are much better for this kind of work.”

For now, Ferguson said removing blighted structure remains and ongoing process for the city.

“We want to do whatever it takes it to meet our goal of 50 structures this year,” he said. “Our city crews are aggressive and going at this with 100 percent of their effort.

— Contact Kate Coil at