UPDATE: Fairmont City Council passes 'drug house' ordinance

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- UPDATE: Tuesday, July 10, 8:45 p.m.

Fairmont City Council passed the so-called drug house ordinance, Tuesday night, after holding a public hearing.

Three people from the public came out and spoke in support of the ordinance, saying they would love to see it clean up the neighborhoods and make it a safer place. While the city had received much backlash on social media over the ordinance, no one showed up to the meeting to speak against it.

Fairmont Police Chief Steve Shine spoke in favor of the ordinance and said he believes there's a lot of misconceptions with the public, but that it's only going to target those people who are really neglecting their land when they know there are drug issues happening on the property.

"We're after people like landlords and property owners that have acknowledged that there's drug activity taking place, that have had numerous complaints, that we've given multiple warnings to, that we've asked to help with cleaning up the place, and have refused to do so or take any type of action," said Chief Shine


ORIGINAL STORY

In an effort to crack down on the drug problem in its neighborhoods, Fairmont City Council tonight will vote on a 'drug house' ordinance that would hold landlords accountable for the conduct of their tenants.

Last month, council members held a work session to discuss the possibility of such an ordinance, similar to those in place of Clarksburg, Martinsburg and Hunnington.

Fairmont Police Chief Steve Shine said last month his force has had an increased number of arrests, largely due to the growing drug problem.

"A lot of times it's not just the fact that they're feeding drugs into the community," Shine said. "It's that they're becoming a hot-bed of criminal activity."

City Manager Robin Gomez told 5 News that the ordinance is more than just for curbing the drug problem.

"it's more than just, as I think it's been portrayed, for 'drug houses,' Gomez said. "It's got numerous intentions to ensure that people are properly maintaining and managing their properties. It's to ensure that, in essence, people are behaving well and not causing a problem for neighbors or the neighborhood"

If a property has multiple calls for drug usage or other illegal activity, from prostitution to excessive noise complaints, the police or code enforcement officers can issue orders to the property owner in an attempt to correct the issue.

"We can, in effect, utilize the ordinance to correct a situation or remedy it," Gomez said.

Landlords would also be held responsible, under the potential ordinance, for the actions of their tenants. That has sparked debate in town and on social media about the extent that landlords should be held accountable.

"It's not the landlord's fault," said Rocky Blosser of Fairmont. "I mean, it kind of is, but then again it isn't. It's the people who live there."

Eric Hinerman, also a Fairmont resident, said landlords should be more selective when granting tenants residence, making sure they have decent backgrounds and an active job.

"They're not looking into them to see if they have jobs," Hineman said. "They're not worried about it. All they're worried about is getting their money."

The meeting tonight in council chambers is at 7 p.m. at the Public Safety Building at 500 Quincy Street in Fairmont. 5 News will have updates on the story on Fox 10 at 10 and 5 News at 11.