POINT PLEASANT — “A high level of community involvement” is critical to the Brownfields, Abandoned, Dilapidated (BAD) Buildings Technical Assistance program, of which Point Pleasant has been chosen to participate.
This according to Luke Elser, the BAD Buildings program manager.
Elser drove from his offices in Morgantown to speak to Point Pleasant City Council on Monday night.
The city is one of eight entities in the state approved to receive assistance from the program that provides guidance in dealing with distressed and abandoned properties.
The first priority of the program is to develop a community team of volunteers to prioritize properties on which to focus — properties that can ultimately be returned to productive use. Members of the BAD Buildings team will decide what the “productive use” means, such as residential use, commercial use or even a community park. Elser said this initiative will be led by volunteers and he hopes for team members from every part of the community, including a representative from city government, Main Street Point Pleasant, and local businesses and residents. This team will be trained to do basic research on identifying problem properties, finding title and deed information and how to create change within the community by focusing on these properties.
The goal is also to work with property owners because, as Elser said, “We’re not in the business of pushing anyone out.” Elser has said the program will assist property owners by putting them in contact with resources which could possibly benefit their properties as well.
Elser will be organizing a BAD Buildings team kickoff meeting in the next three to four weeks in Point Pleasant. The team will then meet once a month or twice a month, depending on what works best for the community.
As Elser explained to council, the city receives no money from the program, but what it does receive is free technical assistance needed to deal with abandoned and dilapidated buildings. This assistance is valued at $10,000 — an amount that can be used for any matching grant funds the city may obtain for dealing with the properties.
“We’re very serious about this,” Mayor Brian Billings said about the issue of eyesore properties in town.
Billings then spoke about a property on Mt. Vernon Avenue, owned by a mortgage company in Ripley, as being one of the first eyesores he wants to see improved, calling it a “disgrace.”
The BAD Buildings program, which is funded through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, is a statewide initiative that provides technical assistance and site analysis tools to develop and enhance abandoned/dilapidated buildings programs in West Virginia communities. The program also addresses barriers to identifying, prioritizing and redeveloping BAD buildings.
Working on the grant for the city were Billings, City Clerk Amber Tatterson, City Inspector Jeremy Bryant, City Attorney RF Stein, Main Street Point Pleasant Director Charles Humphreys.
When plans for the first BAD Buildings kickoff meeting are finalized, they will appear in the Point Pleasant Register.