Expand Building Razing Program

Bellaire, Bridgeport and Martins Ferry are far from the only communities in Belmont County struggling with dilapidated buildings that ought to be torn down. Old structures posing health and safety hazards can be found virtually anywhere.

But the county’s agency formed to deal with the challenge is limited to the aforementioned three municipalities. That ought to change.

The Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp., often referred to as the Land Bank, was formed a few years ago to deal with rundown buildings that need to be removed. But, as officials of the agency explained last week, their reach is limited.

They heard from officials of Brookside and Powhatan Point who are seeking help in razing structures in those communities. “I’ve been trying for 20 years to get this property down,” complained Dennis Kennedy, a Brookside councilman.

Powhatan Point Council President Brady Dierkes had an even bigger wish list. He presented a list of 14 buildings that have been condemned and should be razed.

Neither man got what he wanted — at least, for now. Land Bank officials explained they work through the state Neighborhood Initiative Program, which provides some funding for demolition of buildings. The NIP authorization covers only Bellaire, Bridgeport and Martins Ferry, however.

“This is an opportunity for us to move outside those target areas, but we have to present those to NIP. NIP tells us whether it’s a yes or no, whether they’ll actually fund it,” explained Land Bank board Chairwoman Kathy Kelich, who also serves as county treasurer.

State resources are limited, of course, so the NIP’s original three-town limit in Belmont County was understandable. Still, the need to deal with dilapidated buildings is enormous, and it extends throughout the county.

NIP officials should authorize the Land Bank to work with Brookside and Powhatan Point — and should provide funding for those projects in those communities.