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Kingwood continues with condemnation on four properties

KINGWOOD — Kingwood Council voted Tuesday to send letters to the owners of four properties, letting them know the city plans to demolish the structures.

City ordinance requires the city to notify property owners if a property is being condemned. The owners can request a hearing. If they do not, the city can proceed with demolition.

The action comes after the Preston County Health Department inspected the structures and the city condemnation committee voted last week to submit the list to council.

The properties are 110 Murdock St., 114 1/2 Chestnut St., 211 Jackson St. and 169 N. Sigler St. All pose public safety issues, according to the health department.

A fifth property, the Sweet Annie’s building at 142 S. Price St., also is under consideration for condemnation. But neither the city attorney nor one hired by the county economic development authority have been able to determine who owns it, Mayor Jean Guillot said.

The building was owned by Ann Brown Gupta, but her attorney previously told the town it went to the state for unpaid real estate taxes. Attorneys for the city said previously that doesn’t relieve her of responsibility for the leaning structure with a collapsed floor.

The city attorney is going to do further research, the mayor said. “He’s willing to go to circuit court and state that the building is a public health risk and … get permission for the city to just tear down Sweet Annie’s.”

Councilman Dick Shaffer demanded to know where the money would come from for demo. Guillot noted council put aside $50,000 for dilapidated buildings.

About $36,000 is left in the fund after Kingwood took down the old house at the Maplewood Cemetery, Councilman Mike Lipscomb said.

Councilor Karen Kurilko asked if a lien can be placed on properties if the town pays for the work? Yes, Guillot said.

In other discussions, Recorder Bill Robertson said he and City Clerk Michelle Whetsell have been researching building permits in other towns with an aim to improve Kingwood’s own.

“I think the key is to make sure that we get all the information and maybe insist on drawings, etc.,” Robertson said. Council told Robertson and Whetsell to continue their work.

Council also:

  • postponed purchasing a dump trailer for garbage until after it knows if the State Public Service Commission (PSC) will approve an increase in garbage rates. A PSC ruling is due by Jan. 13, the mayor said. The trailer will replace a 2000 model.
  • approved a business license for Silver Eagle Security, which bought 110 W. Main St. Three businesses will be housed there, Guillot said.
  • switched from U.S. Cellular to AT&T FirstNet — First Responder Network Authority — cell phones for city workers. FirstNet is a wireless communications platform created by Congress for first responders and government.
  • discussed replacing the town’s Christmas lights. Whetsell said a lot of the places they checked were out of stock. Lipscomb said they may be on sale after Christmas.
  • voted to promote a worker at the transfer station from four days a week to five. Her salary will remain $11 per hour. Lipscomb suggested the worker, who handles weigh-ins of trash and collecting payments, also be trained on the skid steer and other equipment when things are slow. It could lead to a pay increase, he said.