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Wall repair on hold to determine ownership

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Questions over ownership of a century-old wall in Fayetteville have left its renovation in limbo — much like the wall itself.

The sandstone wall along Keller Avenue is one of several built by local Italian masons between 1910 and 1920. The wall has buckled and now sits at an approximate 17 degree angle, and pieces have started falling into the street.

The Register-Herald reports (http://bit.ly/VlsCC4 ) that the town, the adjoining property owners and the state have all denied owning the stone wall. The cost to repair it has been estimated at nearly $200,000.

"These walls are a treasure to our community," said town attorney Larry Harrah. "They really bring a great historic value, and the town wants to work with the citizens to try to figure out how we can go about fixing the problem.

Fayetteville officials sought grant money for the fix but so far have not been able to obtain appropriate funding.

It has put off making a decision on replacing the wall until the ownership issue can be resolved.

Up until November, the city assumed the wall and others like it were the city's responsibility and were discussing ways to come up with the money to make the necessary repairs.

But engineer Zane Summerfield reported at the city council meeting in November that the firm had concluded from old deeds and other documents that the wall actually sits on private property. The surveyor, Gary Shields, said that maps of the property from 1949 and 1970 both note that the right of way runs along the base of the wall.

Letters were sent to the property owners, but one of those, Harry Fuller, reviewed the same documents and came to a different conclusion. He told the council earlier this month that that maps indicate that lead "plugs" in the middle of the top of the wall establish the property's boundaries.

"Only half the wall is on my property and the other half is on someone else's property," he told the council.

Shields said a field survey has not been done to determine where the plugs actually sit in the wall. The buckling also has left it far from its original position, further complicating the matter.

"Without physically knowing actually where those plugs are or where they were in their original positions, there's no way to be certain," he said.

But Shields said it would be unusual for the property line to be in the middle of the wall and that it was more likely to be at the base.

Fuller also presented information from several historic documents that discusses the issuance of a bond by the town to build a sidewalk in 1911, reinforced by a stone wall.

Fayetteville Mayor James Akers still says there's no documentation that the wall belongs to the town, but that it would continue to try to find a solution.

Harrah, the town attorney, said officials didn't want to be contentious, but that their experts are telling them the wall isn't the town's.

"That's not saying we're not going to work with folks, because we understand the tremendous financial burden that will be placed on townspeople to fix those walls. So we're going to do what we can to help too," he said. "We don't want to get in a big battle over these walls. We want to save them like everybody else."


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