Tribune-Courier General Manager
One might say Joe Orcutt is persistent. For the past four years he’s been trying to get what to most would seem like a simple problem resolved, only to be met by one obstacle after another.
All he wants is for the water to be drained from an above-ground swimming pool on an abandoned property near his home.
That request has confounded county government officials, who didn’t know, or couldn’t agree, on what to do about the problem.
Marshall County Fiscal Court members agreed last week to see that Orcutt’s request be moved through the system and with any luck he will finally see a resolution to a problems he’s been battling for several years.
“I don’t want to be a nuisance myself, but sometimes matters need to be brought up,” said Orcutt.
Orcutt lives on Dogwood Place off U.S. 68 between Jonathan Creek and Aurora. Stagnant water has been sitting in the pool since his neighbors walked away from the property in April 2009 and Orcutt believes it presents safety and health hazards.
Last week Orcutt brought his plea for help before fiscal court.
“This thing has been a thorn in my side and in the neighborhood for four years,” said Orcutt. “I have contacted the health department. One time they came out and put chemicals in it and my neighbor and I shoot it with bleach to keep the mosquitoes down.”
Orcutt also said that while the residents living along the road don’t have children, they do have grandchildren who come to visit and he believes it to be an unsafe situation.
County Judge Executive Mike Miller said he was asked to help assist Orcutt in finding a solution to the problem about two years ago and has gotten nowhere in determining who is responsible for the upkeep of the property.
Miller asked the court if the pool could be drained and the lot near it mowed under an emergency order declaration for safety reasons.
County attorney Jeff Edwards advised this was an item that should be enforced under the county’s nuisance ordinance.
And so the confusion among members of the fiscal court began.
Under the county’s nuisance ordinance, adopted by the fiscal court in April 2007, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department has the responsibility of investigating and enforcing nuisance complaints.
The sheriff’s job is to investigate and respond to a complaint, make a determination on whether a nuisance exists, notify a property owner that the complaint needs to be rectified and send written documentation to the refuse board for action if the problem is not resolved.
Sheriff Kevin Byars, however, said in fiscal court he was not clear on what constitutes a nuisance and what doesn’t.
“I’ve petitioned the sheriff’s department for the past two years and just finally threw my hands up,” said Orcutt.
Byars acknowledged he had been contacted, but did not deem the problem one that fell under the category of nuisance.
“That’s been my question all along,” Byars said. “It’s never been clearly defined to me what a nuisance is.”
Assistant county attorney Jason Darnall said according to state statute the abandoned swimming pool fits the definition of a nuisance and the county’s ordinance is the enforcement arm of that.
Byars asked Edwards if he would provide advice on future complaints to help him determine when a nuisance determination is warranted. He also expressed concerns that he did not believe the sheriff’s department to be the correct place for nuisance calls to be directed.
Edwards agreed to provide a review of future complaints, but added, “I’m not going to do the investigation for you. If you want to redraft the ordinance so that it’s my job, we’ll do that.”
Byars said he and Edwards met following the fiscal court meeting and he now has a clearer understanding of how to handle the complaints.
“I think maybe I was being a little too analytical about it,” said Byars. “As a former investigator I was taking a detailed approach to it. I spoke with Jeff and he said I can use pictures sent to me as evidence, rather than taking my time to go take pictures and do a complete investigation.”
Orcutt’s persistence may pay off for others facing the same sort of dilemma. Byars estimates he has 30 to 40 other complaints that he was previously unsure how to handle on his desk.