Brooklyn Area Complaints Dominate Council Meeting
Residents from the Brooklyn area of New Martinsville brought their frustrations, over the rundown section of town, to city hall on Monday, at the regular meeting of city council.
Earl Smith, a 41-year resident of New Martinsville, was the first to speak concerning the problems which plague the area. Smith said he had not been well and had to miss some council meetings, but he had a number of concerns to speak of. He said the fire hydrants in the Brooklyn area had not been painted, and he said someone from the city had called him and told him they were completed.
He said he was irritated because he felt other areas of New Martinsville were receiving all the attention and Brooklyn was being left out.
He was assured by Mayor Steve Bohrer and Water Department Superintendent Pat Durant that work was being done to get all the hydrants painted and Brooklyn was not being left behind. Smith also mentioned sidewalks as an issue and was upset there are none in the Steelton area of town.
Smith also expressed concerns over stray cats running loose in the neighborhood. Smith said he had spoken to the governor’s office, which told him cats are the city’s responsibility to control. Smith said he was giving the city 30 days to rid his street of the stray cats, or he would be taking legal action.
Mayor Bohrer told Smith the cats were not the city’s responsibility, and the city would not be taking any action.
Smith was also upset about the three-day Back Home Appalachian Arts & Music Festival, held recently in the downtown area. He was upset a portion of Harlan drive, from the corner of Maple Avenue to Main Street, was closed. He said this was an inconvenience and a nightmare to try to get around.
Smith said he had just gotten out of the hospital and could not get anywhere because streets were closed.
He also had a concern with the fireworks display that weekend, saying there were three people in his area with major health problems. Smith said fireworks were being set off near his house and front porch.
Mayor Bohrer told Smith he was sorry he had a problem and he would to what he could to take care of it.
Darrell Cecil, another Brooklyn resident, also spoke at the meeting over dilapidated property in the Brooklyn area, and lack of action on the city’s part in helping to get the area cleaned up. He mentioned coming to council meetings for the past seven years with his complaints, yet the problems still exist. He said it is a disaster and surely something can be done.
Mayor Bohrer explained to Cecil that the city has not had any recent complaints, and it takes a written complaint for the city to take any action.
“Well it’s seven years, I would think that we could have something done!” Cecil said. “That’s all we ask; it’s been the same thing for seven years. We’re tax paying citizens and we’ve come over here and worked and worked and worked with council. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that half of our town is appreciated and the other half ain’t,” stated Cecil.
Mayor Bohrer said nobody on council thinks that Brooklyn is a second-class place to live, nobody.
“I don’t know where you come up with this,” Bohrer said. He asked Building Inspector Joe Hanna to address the issue. Hanna told Cecil he always comes to Brooklyn when he’s asked, and he has done the best he could with the situation.
“I’m 100 percent behind you. It’s not only Brooklyn; it goes all the way to the end of town. It has nothing to do with you. I grew up in Brooklyn, I grew up down there, and I grew up in Thomas addition. I would move back down there tomorrow. It doesn’t matter to me, but we’re doing the best we can, doing the best I can.”
Mayor Bohrer said he is going to see the issue through. Bohrer said one of the courses of action, his campaign was run on, was cleaning up the area.
Bohrer said it is not an easy process, and one must understand that everybody has rights, even the people who live in the homes. Bohrer remarked on one home that didn’t have water, but was still occupied.
“We have been coming there for a long time, and basically we’re the only ones who have been complaining about the property in our area, so something has got to be getting done. Surely with all the meetings we’ve come to, we should be able to get a little bit of help first,” Cecil said.
Bohrer said, “Yes I know, and I understand your frustration.”
Bohrer reiterated during his campaign, he stressed the importance of cleaning up Brooklyn.
Councilwomen Holly Grandstaff spoke about growing up and living in Brooklyn and how nice everyone used to keep their property and how much she loves Brooklyn. Councilman Joel Potts said he couldn’t keep quiet any longer either, being one that lives in Steelton and being accused “That I don’t care about Brooklyn.”
“My family came to Brooklyn in 1890 and my great-grandparents house sat in the parking lot where Choo Choo’s is, and everytime we went there my dad would say ‘We’re going through Grandpa’s house.’ My Uncle Harvey lived on the corner of Vine and Foundry. Harvey had the cigar factory and then turned it into the grocery store,” Potts said.
He continued, “My roots are in Brooklyn; I care about Brooklyn. I drive around it, but come up and drive around all the side streets – not just Thistle, not Benjamin, not just the main ones, but up and down the alleys and side streets in Steelton. You wouldn’t believe the dilapidated and overgrown brush and abandoned cars and abandoned furniture and everything in regards to Steelton.”
Potts said, “It’s this whole town, and unfortunately it’s in every town in this Ohio Valley. I’ve talked to council people from Wheeling, Wellsburg and others, and it’s not that people don’t care about your section.”
Tammy Bevelin, another resident of Brooklyn, spoke next. She claimed she has been hearing the same story over and over, and that every mayor tells residents the same thing. She said they have had special meetings with the Prosecuting attorney, the city attorney, and with the city, and nothing is being done. “I could not sell my house today for what we have in it. That is no lie! We have written four complaints and I will tell you something about Joe Hanna: every single time we have asked him to help us he is right there,” she said.
She mentioned being at a meeting last September and asking if she needed to keep coming back, so they wouldn’t be forgotten and was told no, but she said now it is a year later and things are just getting progressively worse. She spoke about abandoned cars with no license, that are untitled, about houses that have weeds growing up to the roofs, and about rats.
Bohrer and Bevelin agreed to meet with Chief Cecil to try and get the issue of junk cars resolved. Bevelin said Tim Haught, Tim Cecil, Joe Hanna and Jeremy Shepherd walked through Brooklyn and tagged these cars; she said they are untitled and unlicensed. She said when officials left, the people went and took the tags off.
There was discussion by council on ways to get funding for cleanup and talk on the expense of cleanup but no solutions. Councilman Steve Palisco mentioned money, in the amount of $100,000, that is given each year for cleanup of properties to five West Virginia towns; he said he spoke to David McKinley about it, but when he inquired about it, he was told it is applicable on population. New Martinsville is too small for this funding, and New Martinsville is too large for smaller grants. Mayor Bohrer said it discourages him to think that the residents think he doesn’t care. He said what he wants most is cleanup of the town.
Bevelin said everything that had been accomplished is right back to where it was; all the cars are back, and now there are boats setting all over the place, trailers with the sides ripped off.
Delinda Jackson spoke to council next, and she said she only had one small issue. She said she had put in an application for a building permit about five weeks ago now and she wanted to know what the turnaround was on the permits. Hanna told her it is normally 5-7 days but it’s still being looked at. Jackson said they were setting quite a precedent since it doesn’t take others five weeks to get a permit. Hanna said there is some question on the use of the structure.
“We’ve talked to our lawyers, and at this point we need to determine if it’s going to be used for salvage or special storage. Right now they are waiting on the state to make a determination of the structure’s use. Jackson said no one had talked to them about use.”
In other business, council voted to approve the Emergency Ambulance Services benefit at the additional cost of 41.55 per member with Highmark BlueCross/Blue Shield.
Also approved was a reccomendation from committee to change “C” Street to Ashley Lane and a recommendation from committee to renew the agreement with Wetzel County BOE in reference to the SRO agreement for Magnolia High School and New Martinsville School.
Council approved a motion to go out for bid for a new roof on old city hall and to hire Drew White as a full time Parks Maintenance Employee.