KINGWOOD — The owners of two buildings Kingwood Council say are unsafe agreed to repair the structures.
Since October, council has been working with the owners of the Herring Building, at the corner of W.Va. 7 (Main Street) and Price. Stone falls from the building and the metal fire escape appears ready to fall, council said.
At its last meeting of 2018, council put 239 Morgan St., an apartment building, on the list. Squatters are living in the building without water or electricity, and vandals have damaged it, they said.
On Tuesday, Mayor Jean Guillot presented letters from Preston Health Department Administrator V.J. Davis, who inspected the buildings for the city condemnation committee.
Davis said his inspection revealed pieces of stone facing fell from the top of the Herring Building and some stone or concrete window ledges appeared in poor condition or had already fallen off.
Both observations “in my opinion, constitute a public health/safety hazard. If a loose piece of stone were to fall onto a pedestrian walking by the building, major injury would most likely be the result,” Davis wrote. Guillot held up fist-sized rocks he picked up on the sidewalk.
Lee Hairston and Brian Duncan, the building owners, attended Tuesday’s meeting. Their company, B&L, LLC, bought the building for $34,000 in 2016.
Hairston repeated earlier statements she made about it being difficult to find someone to work on the building.
Hairston said their partners backed out, leaving them with a “huge financial burden,” to repair the building. At the city’s urging, they had some work done on the building, “but it was determined that permanent work still needed to be done.”
She has two quotes for installing temporary netting around the building to catch falling stone, Hairston said. They requested 90 days to get it ordered and installed. Council said within the 90 days it wants to see a signed contract for the work, even if the work isn’t finished.
“Just to know that we have something in place,” Councilman Joe Seese said. “Like she said, it takes time to get people up here to do things.”
Council also told the owners to install some sort of shield, such as a wooden scaffolding or an awning, from the front entrance to the sidewalk to protect people walking there. This is to be done as soon as possible.
“We’re not trying to be difficult here, but we can’t have rocks falling on people’s heads,” Councilman Mike Lipscomb said.
Hairston said they will continue to seek funding for permanent renovations. Restoring just the cornice would cost about $250,000, she estimated. She also sought a quote on removing the metal fire escape on the side of the building.
239 Morgan St.
In regard to the Morgan Street property, Davis wrote that though he didn’t go inside, there were several broken windows and unsecured entries, which provide easy access and a potential safety hazard. He recommended the owner be required to secure entries and replace the windows.
The owner, Dale Cunningham, said he took steps to evict the former renters last year. Sheriff’s deputies have had a notice to vacate to serve on the trespassers since Nov. 13 but said they couldn’t find them, Guillot was told. Council gave the papers to Kingwood Chief Charlie Haney to serve.
“I want to fix it back up,” Cunningham said. “The vandals came in the end of September, and after that, we tried getting everybody out of there.”
Cunningham obtained a building permit to board up the property and secure it until the trespassers are evicted. Haney said that could take more than 30 days, under eviction laws.
The condemnation committee also looked at the Sweet Annie’s building at 142 S. Price St.
Davis wrote in his report on it that he could see from the street the first floor is collapsed and the building leans to one side. The fire chief agrees the structure is unsound, Guillot said.
The city contacted Anna Gupta of California, whose attorney said she no longer owns the building because it was sold for taxes. The city attorney said Gupta is still the owner, despite the tax lien.
Lipscomb suggested beginning condemnation, which is lengthy. The mayor will begin the process next week.