A building is identified as being in a poor or dilapidated condition by a brief inspection. This can orginate from a complaint by a citizen or from an oberservation by department staff. If there is evidence or likelihood that the building is structurally unsound, then it is likely beyond basic code enforcement action.
The address and legal desciption is discovered and the owner is contacted with a request to appear before the Buildings Commission. The Buildings Commission's duties are described and empowered by the City Code of Ordinances Chapter 6. The Buildings Commission is the only agency that can condemn and raze a building due to its condition and danger to others. This process is detailed beginning in the City Code of Ordinances Chapter 6. The Buildings Commission meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at noon in the Municipal Building.
The Commission sets the case for a formal hearing, usually the month following the initial appearance. Procedures to ensure the Buildings Commission attempts to contact an owner include mail, phone, and publication in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. At the formal hearing, testimony is taken from the Building Inspector, after the more thorough interior inspection is conducted. This includes the presentation of photographic evidence.
If the building is determined to be a danger or detriment to the neighborhood and beyond reasonable repair, then a Standard Order of Demolition can be issued. This gives the City of Bluefield the authority to remove the building at the owner's expense. The owner has rights of argument and appeal to contest the Standard Order of Demoltion if desired.
On occasion an owner will voluntarily have a demolition completed by a contractor. This is highly encouraged by the Building Inspector and Buildings Commission. Frequently the buildings are houses which have been abandoned or the owner is deceased with no known heirs. Almost as common is an owner who is elderly or on a limited income with no means either to repair or raze the house.
Per State Code, after a building is condemned by a Standard Order of Demolition, an inspection for asbestos must be done prior to demolition. If asbestos is found, it must be removed before demolition begins. The City of Bluefield has certified personnel to inspect and abate asbestos.
The City of Bluefield will also check to ensure that electric and natural gas service is disconnected. After abatement is completed, the building is placed in "ready" status and referred to the Public Works Department for demolition as time, staffing, and other duties allow.
An invoice is sent to the property owner, then a lien is filed against the property for the costs incurred. The lien must be settled for the property to change hands or be redeveloped. There is a provision in the State Code that allows municipalities to take ownership of the property due to unpaid charges. Sometimes, an owner will offer the property to the City of Bluefield to "settle" the matter and on occasion, the City of Bluefield accepts the property deed. The City of Bluefield has the right to file suit to collect all demolition and related costs, if the officials believe a property owner has the means to pay for the service.