Change is happening in Marlinton, and for Code Enforcement Officer Dave Watkins, the focus has shifted toward dilapidated buildings, abandoned vehicles and 911 address issues throughout the town, as well as combating animal abuse by ensuring owners comply with the laws outlined in the Marlinton Animal and Fowl Ordinance.
“We’ve received some complaints,” Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton said, “and Dave has picked up on and taken these animal complaints more seriously as the weather has gotten colder.”
In doing so, Watkins has been on the lookout for proper outdoor shelter and weather-appropriate bedding, an adequate supply of food and water, and a minimum 15-foot lead and room to move around – as is required by the ordinance – and whether or not dogs have county head tax and rabies vaccination tags visibly affixed to their collars.
Watkins will be checking how long an animal is kept confined, as well.
Per Section 3-104 of the Animal and Fowl Ordinance, the town has the right to confiscate an animal if an animal is left out, unattended, for more than 12 consecutive hours in a 24 hour period.
“I have a time frame from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. where I can go and find an animal that’s been penned up or put outside,” Watkins explained, “and I have to wait twelve hours before I can return and see if it’s still outside. If it is, I am able to take it.”
Once a dog has been remanded to the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter at the owner’s expanse, the owner will have 10 days from the dog’s date of entry to fix the animal’s environment. During those 10 days, the owner is responsible for paying the $50 impoundment/board fee for the first 24 hours and an additional $10 for each 24 hour period after that, as well as any extra service costs – such as inoculations, shots and vaccinations.
Should the owner fail to make an effort to improve the situation or return for the dog, the ownership of the dog is then transferred to the shelter.
In addition to animal abuse, Watkins hopes to take a stand against the dilapidated buildings if and when Marlinton is accepted into the West Virginia Home Rule Pilot Program.
If selected, the program will offer home rule authority to Marlinton and allow the town to implement acts, ordinances, regulations, resolutions and rules without regard to state laws as long as the proposals comply with the United States Constitution, the West Virginia Constitution, federal laws and chapters 60-a, 61 and 62 of the West Virginia Code.
“It’s a sticky wicket,” Watkins said. “There’s a lot of legalities involved with making people do this, but if and when we get involved [with the program], I will be able to issue citations to the homeowner.”
However, one difficulty Watkins foresees with issuing the citations is locating the homeowners. Many of the dilapidated homes are rental, seasonal and/or vacation properties and are owned by out-of-state residents.
Once the homeowners have been located, certified letters will be mailed out. Each letter will outline the conditions and concerns of the house in relation to what is outlined in the town ordinance, and only after a signed letter has been received from the homeowner – acknowledging that they understand what they have been told – will the town be able to move forward.
If the home rule authority is implemented, Marlinton Town Council will then vote on the cost of the infraction. Should the owner fail to respond, the town will be able to step in and take control of the situation.
Action will be taken against abandoned vehicles in Marlinton, as well.
Recently, a number of vehicles with flat tires, expired inspection stickers and tags have appeared on Watkins’s radar, and in an effort to clean up the town, letters will be drafted and mailed to the vehicle owners notifying them of the violation.
Upon receiving the letter, recipients will have 10 business days to take care of the vehicle before the town steps in. If the owner has not responded and complied by the end of the 10th day, the vehicle will be towed at the owner’s expense.
The final item on Watkins’ agenda revolves around 911 addresses and the number of houses that fail to display their numbers prominently or even have numbers posted at all.
Those without appropriate signage can call the Marlinton Post Office at 304-799-6108 for information about the correct size requirements.