WSAZ Investigates | Property Complaints
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - We told you a couple of weeks ago about a trash-filled property along Jackson Avenue in Huntington.
Neighbors tell us the city has come out and cleaned the area before. However, trash started piling up again. Neighbors tried to reach out through the city’s 311 app, but they stopped getting a response.
That’s when neighbors reached out to WSAZ, trying to find out what can be done -- and 24 hours later, that property looked a lot different.
WSAZ’s Marlee Pinchok spoke with Mark Bates, the city’s director of Council and Citizen Engagement to find out more about the 311 platform, as well as a layer you may not know about.
“Key staff members have left and it caught us by surprise. So, with this system being new-- there were things that we had to do to change those requests over to a new person, but we had to wait for the person to be hired, so there was a lapse of time where maybe folks weren’t communicated to,” Bates said. “And then as your story aired, we reviewed that and saw that there were a few glitches there that we needed to correct.”
Our story brought those glitches to the city’s attention. Glitches, Bates says, primarily come down to neighbors putting in the wrong address when submitting complaints-- such as the trash-filled property on Jackson Avenue.
“There were four reports on this property, but they were different addresses. One was actually pinged in the park behind it. So, this will clear up as our new staff member gets on board and understands the system better,” Bates said.
Bates says those complaints go beyond the app. They also spark a part of his job you may not know about.
“I’m actually able to go out as their eyes, view the issue and many times now with our 311 app while I’m there on site, I can put that complaint or that concern into the system and get the wheels turning,” Bates said.
Many times a year, Bates says he and council members hit the road on windshield tours-- checking out concerns that need to be addressed.
Bates says he also goes out on his own, watching for concerns like dilapidated homes and checking up on complaints already in the system.
While driving around to some complaints neighbors have issued, WSAZ’s Marlee Pinchok asked Bates “so, whenever you pull up to this property, you’ve been here multiple times before, is there anything that you are looking for today?”
“More so today I would look for some potential trespassing or criminal activity that could be going on … we just look for something that may be additional that is going on that maybe wasn’t going on the last visit,” Bates said.
That information would be sent to police.
With every complaint, comes a process with a lot of layers. From contacting the property owner to try to get the issues resolved, to escalating health and safety concerns. For the ones beyond salvage, tearing them down won’t happen overnight. However, Bates says your complaints are being heard and they’re working hard to make the process as painless as possible, as well as provide neighbors peace of mind.
“Our goal is to make this program even better. Work on the things we need to work on and see what needs to be improved. We’re taking input from our partners, from the community, and from our staff that actually work the system on how to make it better,” Bates said.
As the city says they’re working to make improvements, this is how you can stay up to date on a property you may be concerned about:
-Just open the app and click on requests.
-Once the map loads, find the property.
-If a complaint has already been made, just click on the pin.
-Then tap the little “i” for info and that’s where you’ll find all the history and updates on the property, so you can follow along or even join the conversation and add a comment or question.
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