Huntington City Officials Walk Neighborhoods Seeking Input, Planning Improvements
Mayor Steve Williams and members of Huntington City Council have gone on community walks through the different districts of the city since 2015.
It has become a tradition that lets city officials have an up close look at different neighborhoods. This week, they turned their attention to Fairfield, a district with rich African American history. The mayor was joined by council members Teresa Johnson and DuRon Jackson, and Fire Chief Jan Radar.
Teresa Johnson, who represents Fairfield, led the group of city officials. She walked at the front with Mayor Williams, pointing out parts of the community that have evolved over time.
The large number of abandoned houses in Huntington is a major issue, and Fairfield is no exception. The abandoned buildings were a major focus of the walk. As Johnson pointed out abandoned buildings to the group of officials, Radar got in closer to inspect the building.
Chief Radar said she likes the walks because it allows her to get a closer look at the abandoned houses and form a plan with other city officials to tear them down.
“There are a lot of things I see walking that I wouldn’t if I was driving my vehicle. We have every department head here. So we work together to take care of the issues.”
With Huntington’s population in decline, many homes are left empty. People there who are experiencing homelessness often use these structures as shelter. According to Radar, they light fires inside for cooking or warmth, and sometimes the fires spread out of control.
Radar said that the houses need to be safely torn down. “Anytime firefighters fight a fire their lives are at risk. Anytime you have an abandoned structure burning, there may be people in there. There are houses on each side that are threatened with fire as well,” she said. “It is safer for firefighters and for the community to have those houses taken down properly versus burned.”
As the group walked through the neighborhood, residents voiced concern over the abandoned houses. Fairfield residents Krystal Philips and Lorretta Heston both live next to abandoned houses. Both were concerned over the potential fires, and were frustrated with litter and decay of the buildings. Heston added that “pieces of it fall off” and the debris hits her house, “every time it rains or storms.”
Radar said that tearing down buildings, “hopefully will free up space for people to move into the city and build a new lovely home where we took down some abandoned structures.” Twenty abandoned houses have been torn down since October 2020.