Safety issues embroil Marlinton council
Marlinton councilmembers said unsafe, ramshackle buildings pose a serious danger to town residents and a potential disaster for the town's finances.
Councilmember Louise Barnisky said during the council's June 9 meeting that the buildings are especially dangerous for children.
"When going up the upper Tannery Row, that frightened me to death," she said. "I saw kids running around out there. If one of them went into one of those dilapidated, burned out houses, their little lives could be gone within a second."
Recorder Robin Mutscheller said town attorney Martin Saffer had warned council about the unsafe buildings.
"Our attorney has reminded us that the potential liability for the town is huge, and that it needed to be dealt with in a timely manner," she said.
Mayor Dennis Driscoll said Saffer had spoken to him about the issue.
"He yells at me about this all the time and I yell back at him," he said.
Barnisky urged the mayor to get something done.
"I'll tell you. Something needs to be done and done right away," she said. "That's awful up there on Tannery Row."
Driscoll said he had notified owners of unsafe properties and that one of the owners was taking action.
"The worst one, right now, is being torn down," he said. "It may not be the fastest way in the world, but it's being torn down."
Driscoll said he and building inspector Dick Groseclose are preparing a cost estimate to determine how much it will cost to demolish and remove the dilapidated buildings and estimated it could be as much as $80,000.
The mayor said the town would have to borrow the money but that a low interest, state fund is available for the purpose.
A new law will provide some owners incentive to clean up after a fire, Driscoll said.
"We now have, passed by the General Assembly [Legislature], a law that says, if the house is insured, they don't get their insurance money until they've torn the house down and cleaned it up," he said.
The mayor said he and Groseclose would calculate a dollar amount for the clean up and pursue the state loan.
The council also discussed speeding on Third Avenue and resolved to place stop signs at two intersections to slow down traffic.
Mutscheller said residents on both ends of Third Avenue had complained about speeding and requested stop signs at 6th Street and 10th Street.
One mother reported a frightening close call to the recorder.
"There was an accident where a child was hit in the alleyway and she said that it was a racetrack down on the lower end of Third Avenue," Mutscheller said.
Councilmember Joe Smith said he had spoken with one of the mothers.
"I told her to her face, 'your kids shouldn't be playing out in the middle of the road,'" he said. "I think we have too many stop signs in this town now."
Smith said parents are responsible for keeping children out of the road.
"That's just the way I look at it," he said. "When I was a kid, I was not allowed in the road or I got my fanny beat."
"The thing is - kids and animals end up out in the road," Mutscheller replied.
Barnisky moved to have the stop signs installed; Mutscheller seconded, and the council passed the measure 4-2, with Smith and councilmember Norris Long voting nay.
The council discussed speed bumps in alleyways but took no action.
During the mayor's report, Driscoll reported that two new aerators for the sewage treatment pond had been delivered and would be installed on June 10.
In other business, council:
- tabled action on a contract with Potesta Engineering for design of a phosphorus removal system at the sewage treatment plant. The council was concerned about a $50,000 liability limitation clause in the contract and will seek advice from the town attorney.
- tabled action on a water rate change.
- tabled action on a water and sewer budget for submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- approved a sewer system asset management plan prepared by Hannah Engineering. The plan includes a list of major sewer system equipment, the expected working life of the equipment and a plan for what to do if the equipment breaks down.
- tabled action on the Code Red emergency notification system until more information on system access and security is available.
- heard a request from Fred Burns, Jr., to waive the contractor building and occupation tax and building permit fee for planned major masonry repairs to the Marlinton United Methodist Church. Council will consider the matter at a later date.
- tabled action on changes to the trailer ordinance until the committee can meet again.
- tabled action on a municipal building safety inspection report until committee chair Long has time to study it further.
- discussed drainage problems at New Vision Praise and Worship and Hamilton Hill, but took no action. Driscoll will investigate a solution to the problems and prepare cost estimates.
The next meeting of the Marlinton council is scheduled for July 14, 7 p.m. at the Marlinton municipal building.