Working Together: Houses Keep Coming Down

Updated 6 years ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
We'll Huff and Puff and Bring Down the Abandoned Houses
We'll Huff and Puff and Bring Down the Abandoned Houses

A multi-jurisdictional pooling of resources has brought down eleven fire damaged and /or vacant houses, according to Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe. The project kicked off Thursday afternoon with a visit by Gov. Earl Ray Tomlin and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. Wolfe said if the coalition maintains its current average of two houses demolished per day, they will make their 30 day goal.

As of late Monday afternoon, three houses had been added, which were included in the total of eleven.  Clean-up for one remained. Wolfe said the pace of demolition becomes more challenging since the first eleven were in  clusters.

“The residents up here [in Fairfield]   are just thrilled,” Wolfe told HNN. One resident said, “it’s a 1000% improvement,” noting that after demolition and debris removal , grass seed had been sowed on the lots.

 Assembling the tools for the coordinated housing demolition came from working together with multiple agencies and departments over a long time frame. “This was not a quick fix,” Wolfe explained. He extended gratitude to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, WV Department of Highways, Booth Goodwin (US Attorney for the Southern District of WV), WV National Guard, the WV Department of Corrections, city entities like H.U.R.A. , the Dept. of Public Works, Legal , Police and Fire Departments, as well as community leaders in the affected neighborhoods. Although not a part of the planned revitalization of Northcott Court, the project has made and will make  certain adjoining properties ready for new development.

“This shows what can be accomplished with a lot of teamwork,” the Mayor said from one of Monday’s demolition locations. 

Some of the houses coming down had been acquired through the city’s home rule implemented Land Bank program, which purchases properties at tax sales, then, secures the property while waiting about 18 months for the owner’s redemption period to run. If not claimed, the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority seeks a purchaser to rehabilitate property. However, due to the November-May string of abandoned suspicious structure fires, those already burned needed to be razed to prevent their use for crime and to alleviate safety hazards . Their removal eliminates neighborhood eyesores, too.

“It’s an innovative idea, but that’s what we do in Huntington,” Wolfe said, adding that he has already had calls from four West Virginia mayors  asking , “How do you do that?”

The inquiries come at a crucial time too. Huntington  as a ‘pilot’ home rule city must this January report their progress to the legislature and ask that the program be extended or replicated throughout the state. “People are following us on the pensions and on the drug intervention [programs],” Wolfe said, alluding to the city’s  pension fund fixes and it’s drug abuse and intervention strategies.

On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin told the crowd the demolition program is a significant victory for this city. “The houses on this corner have been a magnet for crime for years,” Goodwin said. “Tearing them down is a huge victory for law and order, and it sends a very clear message: This isn’t a place that will put up with crime and lawlessness. If you’re a drug pusher or a street crook, you’re not welcome anywhere in the city of Huntington.”

Comments powered by Disqus