Officials speak with Rita residents
by Martha Sparks
RITA — Residents of the Rita coal camp crowded into the fellowship hall of the Bethlehem Freewill Baptist Church again on Tuesday night to find out what, if any, help local and state officials could offer on their eviction notices.
In September, new land owners DB Land LLC issued eviction notices to more than 30 residents of the small community.
Attending the meeting Tuesday night was W.Va. State Senator Art Kirkendoll, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s Senior Advisor Raamie Barker, Logan County Assessor Rick Grimmett and W.Va. House of Delegate member Rupie Phillips.
Kirkendoll said he had spoken to Jim Lewis with DB Land LLC, asking for time to find out ways to help the residents and to come to Logan County to talk with him and other officials about the situation. He said Lewis assured him that he would come and talk with him.
“Hopefully, it will be in the next week or week and a half,” said Kirkendoll. “And I will personally ask him to physically come to this area with me.”
Kirkendoll said that elected officials would all be intune with him on the progress of the situation.
“We don’t know what the legal ramifications will be,” said Kirkendoll. “I want to take a look at their deed and see if they are going to take all of it… what is in the flood zone… I told Lewis there were a lot of issues and that I wanted to sit down with him to make sure that we were doing this right.”
Kirkendoll said he was still searching for funding availability for helping the residents, many who are elderly, disabled or on fixed incomes, in moving their mobile homes or finding housing.
Residents were informed by Kirkendoll that the eviction notice was a legal first step but that Lewis assured him that it would take months to work out their plans for the property.
“He said ‘I’m not going to come in and run everybody off’,” said Kirkendoll.
Barker recommended that residents fill out a form listing their name, addresses, contact numbers, annual income, whether they are retired, disabled or working and how many are in the household.
“We will need this information if we apply for a grant, say from HUD, which is very doable,” said Barker.
The only thing that Kirkendoll and Grimmett were able assure the residents about was that the small community church could not be touched. According to Kirkendoll, the church has a deed.
Despite all the discussion held Tuesday on possible help for the residents of Rita, a solution to the problem can’t be planned until officials are able to meet with Lewis.
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