LOGAN — The Logan City Council approved the second and final reading of an ordinance cracking down on long vacant buildings Tuesday night at the June meeting of the city council.
Mayor Serafino Nolletti and Building Code Enforcement Officer Ray Perry explained that the city had been working on removing dilapidated structures for some time, and that some long-empty buildings had become another major problem the town has had to face.
The Mayor and others admitted that from time to time there had been issues with transients breaking into vacant buildings and using them as flop-houses and there had also been problems with arsons in abandoned structures in the town in the past, making the empty structures a public safety matter, not just eyesores.
“We had a meeting about this last month and a building commission meeting,” the Mayor said Tuesday night.
Perry said that upon passage the vacant structure ordinance will go into effect.
“We currently have less than 52 houses,” Perry said, “but there are a goodly number left.
Perry said owners of vacant properties have been identified and they will be notified about the ordinance by registered mail so they can bring them into compliance with city building codes. Perry said making the ordinance work will take a lot of coordination overseeing that repairs or demolition take place. The ordinance was patterned after one in use in the city of Charleston.
Owners of properties that have been vacant for more than six months will have to register them with the city according to the ordinance passed Tuesday.
Under the ordinance, if a property sits vacant for more than a year, owners will be assessed a fee that increases each additional year the property is vacant.
To be considered vacant, a property must be unoccupied for at least six months during a calendar year. All properties vacant as of Wednesday will begin the countdown process at the same time, regardless of how long they have been vacant.
Properties are exempt if they meet all building and health codes and there is proof that all essential utility services are active and capable of being used without any action being taken by any utility company.
“We will notify people with vacant properties just like we did the folks who owned dilapidated structures,” Perry said, “by certified mail.”
Council members said they hope owners of the worst properties will go ahead and tear them down or fix them up. One problem the city has had in dealing with vacant or dilapidated structures has been finding who actually owns them. In some cases the owners had passed away and left no heirs, Perry explained.
Failure to comply with the ordinance will result in fines.
The Council also had the second and final reading on an ordinance barring the use of Jake brakes on 18 wheelers in city limits. Mayor Nolletti noted that the town of Man had passed such an ordinance within the past two years and that the town of West Logan passed a similar ordinance last year.
“I think we are the last town around to do this,” he said.
Logan Police Chief E.K. Harper said the ordinance might have to be revisited when new Route 10 from Man finally opens.
“It will be pretty steep at that one section, but we can wait and see if that becomes an issue,” Harper said.
In other City of Logan news:
• The last day of June will be the last day to pay up for business licenses and other fees without having to pay a penalty.
• Council approved the signing of a budgetary amendment to increases on spending to streets and other increases bringing the total budget to over $900,000. Nolletti said the amendment had to be signed and sent to the W.Va. State Auditors Office.
• Council approved payment of $87,000 in routinely monthly bills and the monthly check registry. Mayor Nolletti noted that much like neighboring communities the City of Logan’s quarterly premiums for insurance from the Board of Risk Management had gone up by 18 percent.
• Council renewed an annual resolution to keep a $25,000 line of revolving credit at Logan Bank and Trust. Mayor Nolletti said that the town had not had to use the credit in some years but it came in handy this past year when they did need it. Council also passed a resolution for a matching funds for grants agreement.
• Nolletti said he hopes to see the walking bridge project on Midelburg Island completed in the next 12 months — and paid off. “We have it paid down to a little over 12 months right now,” he explained.
• Fire Chief Scotty Beckett said his department had a busy spring answering 89 calls this past month. Beckett said his agency assisted with a call for help from the Logan County airport to assist with a plane that was about to crash due to motor problems. “We were on scene when the plane landed,” he said. “His motor had locked up but all things considered it turned out good.” Beckett said that in recent months the Logan Airport had been busy with visitors from six states and hosting the Royal Air Force from Great Britain.