Mercer County officials, municipalities continue to work towards revitalizing dilapidated structure issue

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BLUEFIELD, WV (WVNS) – As people slowly started to trickle out of the once vibrant and booming railroad city of Bluefield, WV they left their homes and businesses to decay and crumble.

Code Enforcement Officer, Charles Vannatter, explained these run down structures pose an issue for economic growth.

“This is a big elephant that we need to chew one piece at a time,” Vannatter said. “When the properties are dilapidated like in these conditions they devalue the properties around them.”

That is why he and his staff are working to inspect and determine if these properties should be demolished or repaired.

“I start from the ground up,” Vannatter added. “I look for cracked foundations, any footer damage, water damage, roof damage, any decay of wood.” Vannatter said.

However, he added there are several steps that slow down the process of revitalization.

“It’s the fact of finding contractors to bid on these things and it takes a long tedious process,” Vannatter said. “But money is the one thing we have to take into consideration when dealing with these structures. “

While cities like Bluefield and Princeton have procedures such as finding the properties’ owners and seeking grants to pay for demolitions, Mercer County as a whole does not have a dilapidated structure ordinance to handle this problem.

Gene Buckner said he hopes one will be in the works this year.

“We’ve sent this request back to the planning commission in order to get this ordinance drawn and they’ll put together several avenues for us to look at,” Buckner added.

Vannatter said they are scheduled to demolish three structures in Bluefield in March and another three in April.

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