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Parkersburg council to consider trespass order for condemned structures

PARKERSBURG — An ordinance on Parkersburg City Council’s agenda Tuesday would establish a fine of up to $100 for people who trespass in condemned structures.

Council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in its chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building. Those attending must wear masks or face coverings. Six-foot social-distancing requirements will be observed, with audio provided in the executive conference room as an overflow area because of reduced seating capacity.

If approved Tuesday and on final reading later this month, the ordinance would prohibit people from entering a structure with a clear posting that it has been condemned by municipal or county government. While city code enforcement can declare a structure uninhabitable, it takes formal action from the Building Enforcement Agency to condemn a building, City Attorney Joe Santer said.

It would be more difficult to charge someone who has entered a condemned structure under existing trespassing rules “because you would have to have given them notice and an opportunity to leave,” Santer said.

The penalty under the proposed ordinance is a fine of as much as $100, though the first violation could result in community service.

Offenders would be cited into Parkersburg Municipal Court under the ordinance, but if a violation was particularly egregious — such as involving multiple infractions or threatening actions — they could face more serious penalties in Wood County Magistrate Court, Santer said.

Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason Matthews said he supports efforts to discourage people from entering dilapidated structures, where they could start a fire whether acting maliciously or just trying to cook food or stay warm. The department has responded to about a dozen fires this year in vacant structures, though it was not immediately clear how many of them, if any, were condemned.

In other business, council will consider:

∫ The final reading of an ordinance submitting to the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board a proposal to allow police to impound motorized bicycles if the rider violates city code regarding the vehicles and does not have a driver’s license.

∫ The first reading of an ordinance banning motorized bicycles in the city.

∫ A resolution reallocating $39,860 earmarked for the city’s bicentennial celebration to the stabilization fund, the Wood County Recreation Commission and Wood County Society. Bicentennial plans were scrapped because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

∫ The final reading of an ordinance rezoning three parcels at 227 Seventh St. from partial residential to business for construction of a Taco Bell.

∫ A resolution reappointing Patrick McCormick to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

∫ A resolution authorizing Mayor Tom Joyce to accept and administer a federal Justice Assistance Grant providing $30,165 to purchase 52 gas masks for the Police Department and $15,300 for the Wood County Sheriff’s Department to purchase 12 portable radios.

∫ The first reading of an ordinance adopting building code revisions adopted by the West Virginia Legislature.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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