Kanawha County Commission approves $1 million for demolition efforts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission on Thursday approved $1 million for a demolition program focused on removing abandoned and dilapidated structures in unincorporated communities.

According to Kanawha County staff, officials have identified more than 125 structures already that need to be demolished because of a threat to public safety.

Commissioner Lance Wheeler said his top priority when he joined the commission was to “clean up” Kanawha County, a pressing issue because the county halted initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I knew how important these operations were prior years for Kanawha County citizens and the Kanawha County Commission, and I wanted to do everything I could to restart these programs,” he said. “These are difficult programs.”

Wheeler said the structures impact Kanawha County residents by affecting home values and posing fire and safety hazards.

“When I say dilapidated, I really mean it,” he added. “These structures can fall at any moment.”

The program will be funded through a state loan and the county’s coal severance fund.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper proposed sending a letter to municipalities that may not be able to afford demolition efforts without the county’s assistance. Wheeler agreed to sign a letter but noted there is not a guarantee the county could fulfill all possible requests in incorporated areas.