Tribune-Courier News Reporter
The problem of enforcing the county’s nuisance ordinance once again found its way onto the agenda of the Marshall County Fiscal Court last week.
Across the county there exist dilapidated properties, some of them abandoned, which are creating irritations for those living nearby along with hazards and devaluation of neighboring properties.
Perry Blades, representing the Gilbertsville Neighborhood Watch program, approached members of the Marshall County Fiscal Court last and asked that they “put some bite” into enforcement of the ordinance governing such properties.
He said letters sent to the property owners do little to enforce cleanup cooperation.
“One person shouldn’t be able to tell another person how to live, but the conditions of these properties are terrible,” Blades said. “The law needs to do something about it.”
Blades said if the landowners don’t acknowledge the violation order the matter is supposed to be dealt with in district court, but he said once it does make it that far in the system nothing else is done.
“There are three or four mobile homes with no utilities and trees growing up around them,” he said. “Those homes have been like that since Terry Anderson was the sheriff.”
Marshall County commissioner Terry Anderson left his post as sheriff in 2006.
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.
Blades said he has turned in pictures of multiple ruined homes and signed complaints to Sheriff Kevin Byars.
Byars asked members of the fiscal court what he could do beyond sending violation notices, noting that the county would be responsible for the upfront cost of cleanup of dilapidated properties.
“They get 10 days to appeal the violation ordinance, but after that they get a fine after so many days,” Byars said.
He said the next step, if there is no appeal, is to order cleanup by the Marshall County Road Department or the Refuse Board.
“Taxpayer money will be required to get these cleanups done,” he said. “We’ve never tackled a mobile home before. How are we going to dispose of them as to not violate EPA regulations?”
He said the cost incurred for cleanup would be collected from liens on the properties and by selling the properties after foreclosure.
“The initial money to do these cleanups is the problem,” Byars said. “We would be able to recoup the money in five to six years.”
Byars said there was a criminal element to the violation notice, but the court hasn’t enforced it.
He said those uncooperative with the ordinance could spend up to 30 days in jail or have a fine of no more than $500, but that part of the ordinance has never been enforced.
After discussion, members of the fiscal court agreed Byars should follow protocol in the ordinance if property owners remain in noncompliance after proper notification.
Byars plans to send out letters to several property owners in the Gilbertsville area within the week so that the fiscal court members can readdress the issue at its next meeting on Dec. 10.