The old saying goes, ‘ Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ Apparently, Letcher County’s abandoned, blighted and deteriorated houses will not be leaving in a very timely fashion, either. There is a law on the books in Kentucky which is in place for the purpose of protecting its citizens from the danger of such houses being left standing. It is my understanding, therefore, that Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward and Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton share in the responsibility of seeing to it that such blighted and deteriorated houses be removed for the benefit of the citizens of Letcher County.
For almost 10 years now, since March 2002, my husband, Jim Scott, has gone to fiscal court meetings encouraging and pleading for the law to be followed. He has reasoned with the Letcher County Court that these rotting buildings are eyesores, property devaluation situations for neighbors, and just plain unhealthy (due to snakes, rodents and disease). He was told originally that, in addition to being too costly to raze blighted housing properties, it was, in most cases, almost impossible to locate owners who needed to sign releases to allow the county the legal permission to tear down and remove or bury old, unlived-in and falling down houses (i.e. owners/responsible parties have died or moved away to unknown places).
Then Jim Ward told Jim Scott that if he could locate owners/responsible parties and get them to sign a permission letter, the court, now having legal permission to raze offending houses, would take action. Jim Scott now has a file of about 70 properties qualifying for Letcher County’s program inclusive of an 8×10 picture showing just cause for removal, pertinent information on each owner and a permission letter signed by the owner and by Jim Ward.
The holdup has again been one of cost to Letcher County, at which point large companies have volunteered their employees’ labor hours and removal equipment in order to aid Letcher County and its citizens with clearing of such properties including the tearing down of blighted buildings and the removal or burying of the rubble. This is a very generous offer by the big companies involved, but now there enters into the equation a demand by the big companies for their corporate lawyers to draw up an additional form/letter relieving said companies of reliability for damages or personal injury to volunteer employees or property owners. Ah, red tape!
Now for my suggestion, which is for Letcher County Court to revert to an alternate and original plan wherein they are solely responsible, according to Kentucky law (and their own ordinance, passed by them two years ago), to remove offensive properties for the health and well being of their citizenry Please, Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, all Letcher County Magistrates and Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton, help us to rid our neighborhoods of harmful and detrimental buildings! Please allow Jim Scott to help by contacting owners and keeping track of progress or else take the whole responsibility of running your program, not with volunteers, but headed by and seen through to completion by an appointed (paid) county employee. It would be the responsible, kind, most helpful, appreciated and lawful thing to do!