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Chase City ponders steps to fix dilapidated homes
SoVaNow.com / February 12, 2014The Town of Chase City Council will look into hiring a building inspector to enforce local building codes and promote safe and sound housing, even as officials expressed doubts about the town’s ability to bring about the improvements that residents are calling for.
Town Council, at its Monday meeting, agreed to examine whether hiring a building officer would fit into the town’s budget after hearing from Gwen Singleton, who has lived in the town for nearly 20 years, speak on the subject of dilapidated homes in Chase City.
Singleton received an outpouring of support when she asked for an update on Council’s efforts to address decaying and dilapidated housing. “Someone needs to be held accountable,” Singleton said.
Mayor Eddie Bratton told her the town was stymied: “We thought we had a way for a building inspector to go on to these properties [using a procedure put in place in a neighboring county], but our County Attorney says we can’t do that.”
Bratton said one possible solution is for the town to adopt a rental district ordinance under Virginia Code section 36-105.1:1, which authorizes the town’s building inspector to look over residential rental dwelling units for compliance with the Building Code and to promote safe, decent and sanitary housing for the town.
In addition to passing the ordinance, the town would need to hire its own building inspector to enforce its provisions.
Singleton expressed skepticism at the effectiveness of such an ordinance, noting that “most of these houses are abandoned.” Town resident Sylvia Edmonds noted that even if houses are currently abandoned, they could meet the definition of rental housing under the ordinance.
In other business, Council adopted a series of resolutions and certificates that would allow the town to move forward with its Washington Street Housing Improvement project. Last year, the town received a $968,250 Community Development Block Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to improve 26 low- and moderate-income units and make drainage repairs along Washington Street.
During the public comment session, Edmonds asked what steps the town was taking to protect the water supply in the wake of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill into the Dan River. Chase City has an alternative drinking water supply should the water in the John H, Kerr Reservoir become contaminated, Bratton explained — the groundwater wells that until last year supplied potable water to town residents.
Chase City is the only town in the area with a redundant water source, Bratton said: “It was out of concern for contaminations like this — but at the time, from uranium mining — that we did not cap our wells.”
Bratton assured her that officials in Danville and further upstream are taking regular samples of the water. So far, the only municipality directly impacted by the spill, Danville, “has successfully treated its water supply.” Bratton added that while the spill has reached the confluence of the Dan and Staunton Rivers, it has to pass through the deepest part of the lake [John H. Kerr Reservoir], where most of the sediment will fall out, before it reaches the intake for Chase City’s water supply.
The possibility of another snowstorm this week has Chase City workers out and about, reading water meters on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, instead of on the usual schedule, said Town Manager Ricky Reese.
The mayor and several members of Council, including Brenda Hatcher, Marshall Whitaker and James Bohanan, attended the ribbon cutting for the new addition to Chase City Elementary School last week. Whitaker agreed with those who expressed pleasure with the new building, but said what impressed him most were the teachers who appeared as excited about the new addition as the children.
Bohanan’s excitement over the improvements at Chase City Elementary did not extend to the corner of Second Street and Main Street, where part of the former Leggett’s Department store has been torn down. “It’s a sore eye,” said Bohanan. “Does anyone have an idea about what we can do to improve the site?” he asked.
In response, Reese said he could not give out specifics, but that “something is going to be done.”
Before closing, Bratton announced the next Community Watch meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7:00 p.m. Carlton Gurley said the Highway Safety Committee is meeting Wednesday, Feb. 12, weather permitting, at 1 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Conference Room in Boydton.
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