OPINION: The Tunnel Historic but Safety an Issue

by David Williams, HNN Freelance Correspondent
OPINION: The Tunnel Historic but Safety an Issue

There are structures all over town that are becoming dwellings or breeding grounds for crime. The abandoned house at 1304 5th Avenue and The Flats on Fourth Avenue are dwellings that I fought against all Summer. Both have been slated for demolition. Unfortunately, in this age of the drug epidemic, any structure left unattended is almost immediately transformed into a trap house.

In the case of the abandoned house, I personally was threatened with a club and a brick. I also saved a man's live with CPR after he overdosed....I lived two buildings down. At the Flats, squatters tried to set fires and have stripped most of the copper wiring out of the building.

Although the buildings are both still standing, Jim Insco and the city responded and came up with solutions....unfortunately it takes time for bureaucracy to work. This coming Summer, these incubators for crime will be history.

The West End Pedestrian Tunnel is/ was our first "public traphouse." Dwayne Woods brought it to public attention when he and Todd Sweeney organized cleanups. The cleanup organized by Todd Sweeney was a magnificent coming together of the city residents of Huntington to take back the tunnel. Councilwoman Tina Brooks was thrilled with this effort and donated money for paint.

The city blocked off the tunnel after it was cleaned. After meetings it was reopened. Many felt that the effort by the residents proved that the tunnel deserved a reprieve....that the attention directed toward the tunnel would keep it safe.

A year and a half has gone by and the tunnel is in the process of becoming a public traphouse. It is certainly not the fault of those who cleaned or fought to save it. It is a cold hard fact that if you leave a structure unattended in this epidemic that drug users will use it for drugs. This certainly is not a reflection on those who cleaned the tunnel. They gave great effort but there simply is not enough money to keep the tunnel safe. The priority is for police to patrol residential areas.

The problem is that the city is well aware that the tunnel presents safety risks. The sad thing is the attention that saved the building maybe what dooms it. Very few realized that the tunnel was there. Now, that the city acknowledged that the tunnel exists...there becomes a responsibility of the city to monitor the tunnel to keep it safe or close it down. If a pedestrian attempts to cross the tunnel and is

...God forbid....raped, robbed, or murdered by someone at the tunnel to do drugs or vandalized...then the city has blood on its' hands because they knew of the risks but did nothing or little to stop it.

Mr. Woods and Mr Sweeney have both contributed much to Huntington. The concern about the safety of the tunnel should not be seen as criticism of their efforts. Tina Brooks once supported the effort and donated toward keeping it but realizes that it now poses risks that the city of Huntington must manage and be responsible for. The current condition proves that the tunnel is tough to manage.

Concern that the building could become the scene of a tragedy is not an attack on those who labored to clean it. It is simply the city attempting to make a potentially dangerous place safe. It is a matter of responsibility not priority.