CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- City leaders in Charleston say they're conducting a major effort to demolish abandoned buildings.
Mayor Danny Jones says the empty houses, which are most common on the West Side, are havens for illegal activity.
"There's nothing worse than an abandoned house with nobody there," he said. "You've got squatters, especially in this kind of weather."
Building commissioners say that was the case along Stockton Street in an empty home that was recently demolished. They say four squatters were living inside and using drugs.
Neighbors say seeing the pile of straw there now is a big relief.
"You'd see so many people coming and going, and then the doors would be bolted back up a couple of days later," Jason Morris said, "and they'd be right back in there doing it again."
Building commissioner Tony Harmon says they spend about $250,000 per year demolishing empty homes. They say tracking down the owners can sometimes feel like a full-time job.
"They could be in another state or whatever, so that kind of leaves us hanging," he said, "so we do a lot of research. There's a lot of time and effort that goes into this."
Harmon says it usually costs about $6,500 to demolish a single home. If it ends up being an older home with asbestos, those costs can double.