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Warrant leads to inspection of former Westover Elementary School building

Westover Chief Building Inspector Jason Stinespring and Code Enforcement Officer Bill Kennedy entered the building which housed the former Westover Elementary School on Morrison Avenue Wednesday following an administrative search warrant ordering an interior inspection to verify the structure’s safety.

The property, which is owned by Victor Solomon, has fallen into disrepair and has been fenced off for some time.

According to the search warrant, the inspection was required by the City of Westover Building Code and the City of Westover Vacant Structure Code “to make sure that dwellings, buildings, structure or parts thereof are compliant with the code standards relating to the condition, maintenance, and occupancy of dwellings, buildings, structures or parts thereof” within the city.

The grounds for the search were due to the structure being vacant for at least 15 years and the exterior having fallen into a state of serious disrepair.

In a signed affidavit to obtain the warrant, Stinespring stated that several attempts were made to contact Solomon for access to the structure without a warrant, but he failed to respond.

Solomon’s son, Victor Solomon III, met Stinespring and Kennedy at the old school as they conducted their inspection, which took around one hour to complete.

According to the younger Solomon, they have made several attempts to sell or restore the building, but each attempt was blocked by city zoning changes or codes made by previous city administrations. Even after zoning in the area changed from commercial to residential, an interested party wanting to put apartments in the building was told they could not do so, he said.

While he acknowledged the apparent damage to the building, Solomon III said a lot of the damage is attributed to vandals and thieves who have over time made their way into the property.

At one point, he said that approximately $12,000 worth of Elvis Presley memorabilia that his father was temporarily storing in the building was stolen along with all of the copper and electrical wiring. The thieves broke exterior doors and windows, which is why the building is now totally boarded up.

He also disputed Stinespring’s claim that the building had been vacant for 15 years, saying he himself had resided there in 2015 with the electricity working.

Following their inspection, Stinespring told Solomon III they would create a full report and return to go over their findings with the Solomons. While he could not say whether the building would be condemned at this time, Stinespring mentioned problems with the roof and flooring in several areas of the building, but said the exterior structure seemed to still be in fairly good shape.

Solomon III said that he believes the property has great potential and wants to continue exploring options to make it beneficial to the community — but should the inspector order the building condemned, they would comply and tear it down.

The Dominion Post attempted to speak with Westover Mayor Robert A. Lucci about the city’s current stance on vacant or dilapidated property but did not receive a reply by press time.

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