Marlinton code enforcement officer starts work

David Watkins began work as the Marlinton Code Enforcement Officer last month. Watkins will perform the duties of Building Inspector and enforce town ordinances, including the Health and Sanitation and Animal ordinances.
David Watkins began work as the Marlinton Code Enforcement Officer last month. Watkins will perform the duties of Building Inspector and enforce town ordinances, including the Health and Sanitation and Animal ordinances.

A new CEO started working in Marlinton and it’s not Donald Trump. It’s David Watkins, the town’s new Code Enforcement Officer (CEO). The Town of Marlinton hired Watkins to serve as Building Inspector and CEO while permanent Building Inspector Dick Groseclose is on extended medical leave.

As it deliberated to select a new Building Inspector, Marlinton Council acted on a recommendation by Councilmember David Zorn and added code enforcement duties to the Building Inspector position. The Building Inspector/CEO will be responsible for investigating violations of town ordinances and will have the authority to issue warnings and citations to town residents. Citations will be handled in the Pocahontas County Magistrate Court.

Watkins lived in South Charleston as a youngster.

“I’m originally from West Virginia,” he said. “My dad died when I was young and mom moved me to Florida. She moved to Florida to get away from snow, so I was down there for 42 years. I went to college there; I was a general contractor there. I was a certified building inspector.”

The new Building Inspector/CEO returned to the mountains of West Virginia for hunting trips.

“My older brother had a camp up here at Woodrow,” he said. “It was a one-room schoolhouse that the Presbyterians had turned into a church. The Presbyterians phased it out in the ’70s. My brother was a Nazarene and he put in a bid and won the bid. That was our hunting camp, where we would go bow hunting.”

Eventually, Watkins felt compelled to return home to West Virginia permanently. His brother invited him to come live in the hunting camp. Watkins lived one winter at the Woodrow camp and decided to move someplace a little bit warmer – Marlinton.

“It’s a different world up there in Woodrow, weather-wise,” he said.

The new town employee will issue permits for new construction and help to enforce town ordinances.

“For any building projects that come up, I’ll be the building inspector,” he said. “I’ll also be doing code enforcement, as far as regulations that stipulate garbage clean-up, keeping your house kept up, making sure it’s a safe environment where no one can get hurt, and sanitary so it won’t attract vermin. I’ll be looking for structures that appear to be unsafe, and properties where there’s lots of junk, things of that nature that could be dangerous or a nest for vermin.”

Watkins plans to give town residents ample opportunity to comply with ordinances.

“I would anticipate some resistance from some people,” he said. “You have to be diplomatic. I haven’t discussed this with the Mayor, but I think it would be prudent that, once we discover a problem, we should give the homeowner a notice, telling them what’s required by the code. Maybe give them “x” number of days or weeks to clean up their act. We’re out there to make it a safe environment, not to hassle people.”

Mayor Joe Smith said education will be a big part of the CEO’s job.

“Last year, I worked very hard to send letters out to some people who had very bad looking yards,” he said. “I did get some response from some people and some people did not respond and did not clean up their mess. It needs to be a separate person. I don’t want to see people cited and taken to court. I’m hoping an educational program through the Code Enforcement Officer will be sufficient.”

The town does not have a well organized, indexed book of ordinances. Anyone wishing to learn the details of Marlinton’s laws must sort through an overstuffed and disorganized binder book, kept in a vault in the town office. Council voted down a proposal to digitize and organize the town ordinances because of the $8,000 cost.

Smith said education is necessary because of ignorance of town ordinances.

“I don’t know every ordinance,” he said. “I’ve sat on Council and I’ve been mayor now for almost four years. It’s difficult to know every ordinance. Plus, we’ve adopted some new ordinances.”

The mayor said Watkins’ primary focus will be on enforcement of the town’s Health and Sanitation Ordinance. That ordinance prohibits unsafe and unsanitary conditions on property, including “any litter, trash, garbage, general junk, inoperable household appliances, refuse or any abandoned, unlicensed motor vehicle or any part thereof, which is or may be offensive to the neighborhood or citizens generally.”

The CEO will also be responsible for enforcement of the town’s Animal Ordinance, which, among other things, prescribes acceptable care and treatment of pet animals inside town limits.

Copies of both ordinances are available at the Town office on Third Avenue.

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