BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – After the roof of the Walton Building collapsed on Wednesday morning in Beckley due to old age and deterioration, it left three other nearby buildings damaged as well.
This incident begged the question about what can be done at the city level to ensure buildings are being kept up to code.
With a downtown area full of these types of older buildings, the city now plans to take action as newly-elected Ward 3 Councilman Robert Dunlap hopes to propose an ordinance to hold property owners more accountable.
“I call it Demolition by Neglect,” he said. “It works in other cities where if you don’t keep properties up, if you don’t make the needed repairs, the city has a mechanism to take those back and dispose of them, sell them to developers that will take them back and will take care of those properties.”
Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold supports the ordinance and says he would recommend adding in a part to include structural engineers in the process.
“Prior to any construction that the building owners go to the expense of hiring a structural engineer to evaluate each of these older buildings and make determinations, to make recommendations on how to best mitigate any problems that may exist,” Rappold said.
With the ordinance, it would be the code enforcement office’s job to go in and give property owners a certain days notice to make the repairs or the city would have to look at other ownership options.
Many have questioned why this building was allowed to get in this kind of shape in the first place, but Mayor Rappold says just months ago the Walton Building was inspected for its brick structure.
At that time, the code enforcement office made recommendations to the property owner to fix parts of its brick and mortar as well as its downspouts and gutters.
“It’s one of these things that was largely unpredictable and had we had even an idea that something like this would have happened, we certainly would have stepped in,” Rappold said.
Dunlap says it is about getting the property owners to care about the upkeep and condition of their structures.
“The problem is, government can only do so much at the end of the day. I own several structures in the uptown area, and we all have to understand that responsibility and want more for our city,” Dunlap said.
That section of Main Street is still closed as they wait for the Waltons’ insurance company to evaluate the next steps forward.
The big concern right now is the top end of the building as a wall of bricks at the top is no longer attached to anything which is why the section of Main Street is closed.