Flanagan speaks out on condemnation of homes

Bellaire Mayor Vince DiFabrizio, left, and Clerk/Treasurer Tom Sable confer during the Bellaire Village Council meeting Thursday.

BELLAIRE — New Bellaire Code Enforcer Richard “Dick” Flanagan spoke out Thursday night, providing village council members the often gruesome details of why he condemned a home on Vine Street.

A group also approached council during the meeting seeking to develop a medical marijuana dispensary in Bellaire. Council members indicated they would at least discuss the possibility of allowing it in the village.

Thursday’s meeting began with council unanimously passing two ordinances. The first raised the salary of the assistant police chief by 15 cents an hour. Village Clerk Tom Sable said he “did not have the information” as to what the assistant police chief is paid.

The second established the position of code enforcer within the Bellaire Police Department, and set a pay at $600 extra each month for the officer who holds the job. Previously, the code enforcer was an employee of the village with a salary of $1,200 per month.

Flanagan took over as code enforcer last month. Since that time, four property owners have been cited in Belmont County Common Pleas Court, and nine were given warnings to clean up their property. All nine are now in compliance, he said.

Flanagan said he tells owners of rental property it is their responsibility to register both the residence and number of tenants residing there with the village. Failure to do so could result in a fine of $250 per week per tenant if they fail to do this.

“The mayor’s court is gone,” he said. “We’re going straight into the county court with this.”

Flanagan said when the Belmont County Drug Task Force raids a home, he will be called to inspect the property to determine who was involved and who the landlords are.

Flanagan then directed comments at Councilman Dan Brown, who Flanagan said was putting out “misguided information” about the recent condemnation of a home at 639 Vine St. and his role as code enforcer. Brown’s online video questions Flanagan’s action in condemning the home.

Flanagan said he wished Brown had spoken to him to learn the particulars about the action.

“That video is very detrimental to the future of this town and the residents of this town, and I’m very upset about it,” he said.

Flanagan said he considers the condition of a house and how the residents are living before he decides to condemn a property. He said he has no authority to evict tenants, but if warranted, he can call Children’s Services to take children away until conditions in the home improve.

Flanagan said while inspecting one property, he found two different types of mold spores, and children were living among dog feces in the house. Live wires were exposed, and there was water above the power meter, he said.

In another home, Flanagan said he found the toilet wasn’t connected to the plumbing and sewage was running out directly onto the floor.

At 639 Vine St., there was an extreme cockroach infestation that moved on to affect two neighboring homes, he said. There is a tarp on the roof, and Flanagan said sunlight was visible through it.

“I could smell the stench from the front yard. It smelled like dead meat. … I’ve smelled a lot of dead bodies before,” Flanagan said. “A half step in, I thought I was walking into cobwebs. The cockroaches fell from the ceiling and landed on me. As I turned around, on the kitchen counter there was 20-30 pounds of raw meat that tenants had taken out of a dumpster, and made into hamburgers to eat. I condemned the house instantly.”

Rita Fitch said she has lived nearby at 643 Vine St. for 50 years, and is now planning to move. She recounted waking up one recent morning to a cockroach running across her head.

Flanagan ended the discussion by saying Brown should resign because of his video.

In another matter, representatives of Ohio Valley Med Can approached council to ask if they would be receptive to the company applying for a license to place a medical marijuana dispensary in Bellaire. There would be no marijuana plants or buds available at the dispensary. Instead, the medical marijuana would come in the form of pills and salves.

The representatives said they had a location in mind, but did not reveal it. They said Ohio law prohibits the dispensary from being within 500 feet of a school or playground.

They had first wanted to locate in Martins Ferry, but city officials there told the company they were not interested in having the business in Martins Ferry.

Bellaire officials said little. Mayor Vince DiFabrizio said they would like to first discuss it among themselves.

Council ended the meeting with a lengthy executive session pertaining to personnel and involving water department workers. The employees were dismissed after about 20 minutes.