Property cleanup issues continue

Thursday, July 14, 2016

ROACHDALE -- Spring cleaning has come and gone.

That's the consensus in Roachdale, anyway, as several properties continue to defy cleanup requests from the town.

With three owners missing their respective July 11 deadlines, Roachdale Town Council President Zach Bowers and Town Attorney David Peebles explained at Tuesday's public meeting what exactly may come next.

"The next step could be the hand-serving of a violation -- anywhere from finding that they're in violation of the town code -- to a warrant," Peebles said after discussing the lack of responses from previous letters sent by the board. "At this point it's -- 'if you're willing to pay $25 a day' -- the fine may motivate them."

Bowers added that he has personally witnessed the status of some of these properties.

"The letter we sent gave them 30 days to clean up, and I drive past it quite often," Bowers said specifically about the property located at 110 W. Railroad St. "I haven't seen any improvement."

Bowers motioned for an allotment time along with clear details of the timetable now facing the address.

"I think 14 days is reasonable for them to pay the $25, and then 30 days for substantial cleanup," Bowers said.

A motion initiated by Bowers was then passed that will assure the hand-delivery of an ordinance violation by Town Marshal Mike Mahoy to the address of 110 W. Railroad St.

Another property in question was also discussed thoroughly by the board.

Property owner Steve Keck, who has received violation notices dating back to June of 2014 and said in June of 2016 that he would attend this meeting, was not present for the regular session Tuesday.

"I drove by there this evening and I did notice what appears to be some holes in the foundation of the house by the alley where we've heard people say animals come in and out of -- they are some substantial-sized holes," Bowers said. "He said (at the June 2014 meeting) that it would take him about a year to make the property 'livable.'

"He said he was going to make it a rental property and was given a 90-day extension to basically make the out side presentable with new doors and new windows. He did put new windows in somewhere in that timeframe but there was no other progress made."

Bowers added that after the 90-day extension in October of 2014, no other alterations had been made and, to his knowledge, no further activity has taken place to date.

Keck attended the town's previous June meeting, disputing many of the claims made by not only the town but several nearby residents.

Councilwoman Holly Cook then cited the difficulty in defining the term "livable."

"The challenge is that it's hard to define," Cook said. "I think that one of the main problems that people are having is the pestilence that's living under his house.

"We want that secured -- put something around the house to keep the animals out -- he's the one that defined 'livable,' not us," Cook continued. "I think the town council should define a little more clearly exactly what (we) want from him."

Bowers interjected.

"The question is: If he's going to do this, is (the house) going to sit there and continue to deteriorate, or is he going to maintain and improve the structure?" Bowers said. "Over the past two years, other than putting windows in, I don't think he's done anything. This leads me to believe that it's not that big of a deal to him, and I think if he truly cared about the property he would be here tonight."

In efforts to have the "same standards and requests for everyone" because there are "a lot of residences that have issues," Cook said that, at this point in time, Keck needs to at the very least be informed that animals must stop having access to the foundation and underside of the house.

Cook then referred to Town Attorney Peebles, who said he would hold off on inspection and simply respond with a letter that will give Keck until the August public meeting to fulfill obligations he had promised at the June meeting, i.e. a specific list of improvements.

It was then decided that a letter will be written and delivered to Keck allowing him an extension-of-sorts until the August session to respond with and carry out some of the commitments he has made in the past, especially the holes in the building's foundation.

Other properties that have not responded to previous unsafe building orders were talked over and it was ultimately decided that quotes and bids from construction companies would be acquired and sent via letter to the respective locations as a warning shot before any further action is taken -- demolition, for example.

"The unsafe building order says, 'Structure must be sealed against intrusion by unauthorized persons; property generally cleaned up and made safe; you must undertake maintenance and upkeep of the building and premises; and the structure must be repaired or rehabilitated to bring it into compliance with standards for building conditions and maintenance required for human habitation, occupancy or use,'" Peebles read. "'Or the structure has to be razed.'"

"I think we're past the citation-point for these," Bowers added.

Finally, a property located on Washington Street was discussed. This time, however, the news was well-received by the board and Clerk-treasurer Debbie Sillery.

"We have one on Washington Street that has made major differences in the last week and it looks really good," Sillery said.

In other business:

* Resident Barbara Wilson addressed the board about a property on Main Street (more specifically at the corner of Main and Franklin streets). The unkempt property is occasionally cleaned but railroad ties, barrels, bricks, rocks and poles were cited by Wilson, saying she can't enjoy her backyard due to the other property's status.

Bowers stated that the residence has been served a cleanup notice in the past. Town Marshal Mahoy said the owner is doing what he said he would do, but Mahoy will "keep an eye on the work in progress."

"At least he's doing something," Cook added.

* An update concerning the Wastewater System Rehabilitation Project was given by Municipal Civil Corporation representative Ken Smith.

"I have a pay-application for the contractor but the contractor hasn't the required grant paperwork yet so the grant administrator advised me not to submit that until he gets the paperwork required," Smith said. "It's in his contract to do so.

"Also, (the council) has sent me a copy of the proposed agreed order," Smith continued. "I have a proposal for the contractor outside the wastewater contract."

Smith went on to hand out packets of information to the board -- one that concerned materials and one for labor.

Lastly, the stormwater project is ready to bid but the board is currently awaiting a contract from the state before any bids can be placed.

"We've approved all the shop drawing and products for the wastewater job and have ordered the materials and we anticipate starting the project by the first of August," Smith added.

* Building permits were discussed and approved for the following locations: 207 N. Meridian St. -- 3-0 approval of a garage and utility shed with a concrete floor; 101 N. Main St. -- 2-0 approval of a storage shed (with Bowers abstaining); 111 W. Washington St. -- 3-0 approval of a six-foot privacy fence which will not be affected by a new and upcoming ordinance (as it has not yet taken effect); and 101 E. Washington St. -- 3-0 approval of an awning and roof-cap to be placed on the town's local hardware store.

* Adoption of Ordinance 9-2016 was approved Tuesday via 3-0 vote. This concerns grant information and "blighted areas" downtown.

With nearly 80 percent of the downtown buildings seeing considerable deterioration, it was stated Tuesday that a the downtown area has seen a "cessation of private investment since the year of approximately 2005." This ordinance seeks to "eliminate blighting areas within the corporate limits of the town" and hopes to see improvements for "sidewalks, streets and buildings" that have "severely deteriorated, contributing to blighted conditions."

* Adoption of Ordinance 10-2016 was discussed Tuesday as well but no action was taken. This potential ordinance concerns fees that go along with "tap-on" services, i.e. utilities -- Water Utility, $500 per lot that must be paid to the town prior to connection by a licensed contractor; Wastewater Utility, $500 per lot that must be paid to the town prior to connection by a licensed contractor; Gas Utility, the greater sum of $1,000 per lot or the actual cost of that contractor per lot prior to connection.

* Marshal Mahoy gave his monthly police report. Mahoy requested that an employee who lives out of the area and uses the carrier Sprint to be provided a cell phone with a more-local carrier (AT&T was discussed) in order to contact him on a more-regular basis. Signal is causing an issue in which the town is typically unable to contact the employee, especially in times of emergency.

Separately, Ron Campbell was approved to fill a reserve-deputy vacancy (an unpaid position) via 3-0 vote.

* Lastly, Utility Superintendent Troy Elless gave an update concerning utilities around the area. Three fire hydrants are currently being repaired; weed-spraying is underway; mowing conditions are favorable; some street signs have been replaced; and some potholes have been recently filled.

The next Roachdale regular public session will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. within town hall, located at 205 N. Indiana St. in Roachdale.

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