We now have a committee, and a building officer, that will be charged with the difficult task of locating, and ultimately removing, those dilapidated and unsafe structures that can be found across Mercer County.

The county commission adopted a dilapidated building ordinance earlier this year following much discussion and debate over the issue. The new ordinance allows the county to address “certain abandoned and severely dilapidated buildings” that can be found standing throughout Mercer County.

However, before that process can begin, there had to be a dilapidated building committee, and a dilapidated building officer, in place.

All of those positions were filled last week.

The commission confirmed during a special-called meeting that Lori Mills, a former code enforcement officer in Bluefield, will serve as the county’s new part-time dilapidated building officer. And the dilapidated building committee will be composed of Linda Augustosky; Chad Bailey; Matt Bragg; Virgil Caldwell; Kenneth Crowe; Chief Deputy Joe Parks of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department; Litter Control Officer Josh Parks; and former Princeton Fire Chief Shawn Vest.

“It will be a standing committee within the county and then from that committee, they will be able to go out and take the data and choose the locations from around the county,” county commissioner Greg Puckett said of the new dilapidated building committee. “The main thing is to look at the highest priority, highest need, highest level of risk; so we want to have the properties that are going to be the most hazardous to be selected first.”

That is the key, as some of these abandoned, condemned and otherwise dilapidated structures are in danger of falling down, which creates a public safety concern. Furthermore, these unwanted eyesores can reduce property values and make the county less appealing to prospective businesses as well as those ATV tourists who travel to our region each week.

“We clean those areas up, the quality of life improves, the economics of a particular area improves, and truly the problems we have with vagrancy and substance use also will improve because you’re really trying to encourage people to go get the help that they need,” Puckett correctly noted. “And we’re not dealing with somebody’s property just for a bad yard or a bad fence. We’re talking about dilapidated properties that are uninhabitable. They are going to get absolute first priority.”

The sooner those structures that are no longer habitable or safe are identified and removed, the better for everyone.

We wish Mills, and the new committee, the best of luck in tackling this very real problem.


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