The Gifts That Keep On Taking

Back in 1999, when an elementary school in Belmont was closed, officials in that village must have been delighted when the Union Local school district offered to sell it to the town for $1. That certainly seemed like a good deal.

Now, however, village officials may well be wishing their predecessors had looked the gift horse in the mouth. The old school building threatens to become a severe strain on village finances.

After buying the building 20 years ago, “the town just let it go,” Mayor Stan Sobel remarked last week. The structure has deteriorated to the point it needs to be torn down.

That is easier said than done. The building contains a substantial amount of asbestos. In addition to the cost of razing the structure, getting it down will cost an estimated $88,000 just for asbestos abatement.

Sobel is asking the Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp., often referred to as “the land bank,” for help with the cost.

Officials in several other Ohio Valley communities can sympathize with Belmont. They, too, have accepted old buildings from former owners, sometimes as gifts and occasionally by paying substantial sums for them — only to find repairing or even razing the structures was going to cost more than had been expected.

Unpleasant experiences such as Belmont’s ought to be kept in mind by every town and city official in the valley.

Sometimes, deals that initially looked like good ideas for taxpayers turn out to be the gifts that keep on taking.

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