Area town longing for further cleanup, beautification
ROACHDALE -- The spring and summer of 2017 have been ripe with unsafe-building notices, cleanup orders and ordinance violations for the community of Roachdale, some of which span back more than a decade.
And now, on the heels of these disputed letters and multiple public sessions inundated by the issue, a Community Cleanup Day has been approved to take place Saturday, Sept. 23.
Behind the recent efforts to beautify the town and enforce entrenched violators to comply with long-standing ordinances has been the Roachdale town council, comprised of Board President Zach Bowers, Councilwoman Holly Cook and Councilman Kevin Cook (no relation).
Both Cooks are relatively new to the board (elected in November 2015 to replace Jack Jones and Barbara Scott, respectively) and have brought a fresh perspective with sights set on revamping the community through partnerships with local businesses, the Roachdale Revitalization Cooperative Alliance (RRCA) and by seeking grants and historical designations.
Bowers, who has never been without the support of his fellow council members, has spearheaded these efforts since January and acts as the lone representative of previous boards which have seen notice after notice go ignored.
"I think it's been going on for far too long," he said of the Ruby Bell property in March of this year.
The Bell property, which has gained unwanted notoriety in 2017, has been a source of frustration for at least three boards over the last decade and is now an issue for the courts.
"On Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. we have a telephone conference on the Bell property with the court for further scheduling," Town Attorney David Peebles said of the 102 W. Railroad St. site.
"And everything they said, to the judge, that would be removed, is still there?" Bowers asked.
"The fridge on the front porch and the truck ... the freezer is technically not on the front porch anymore. Now in the front yard," Peebles answered.
The Bell property is the most extreme example of ignored cleanup orders as owners have defied the town for nearly a decade. Other properties have included, but are not limited to: The Keck residence (405 E. Washington St.), the Simpson residence (110 W. Railroad St.), a barn at 310 E. Grove St. and, most recently, the Asher residence (13 N. Meridian St.).
Issues with the Keck residence stem back more than three years with an unforeseen extension granted in October 2016. However, despite the extension granted by split decision, and despite nearly four years of hand-delivered cleanup orders, the Kecks had not yet complied by April 2017 when a bid for demolition was accepted by the board and a final letter was delivered.
It was in May 2017 that, in a welcome turn of events, the Keck property was purchased by Roachdale resident Josh Higgins and was immediately razed, ending the board's concerns while avoiding strenuous court proceedings.
The issue with the Simpson residence, like the Bell property, is currently making its way through the court system as an ordinance violation while the Asher family moves to seek legal action against the town for a recent unsafe-building notice.
Katrina Asher and her husband had many questions for the board during last week's public session, one of which nearly drove the conversation into an argument.
"I'd like to know: Who is our town superintendent?" Asher asked.
The board told Asher that Ronnie Campbell is the current utility superintendent who also acts as the defacto-authority on unsafe building notices (meaning the letters are signed by Peebles upon board approval but technically originate from Campbell so that, in the event a resident wishes to dispute an "unsafe" claim, that person can appeal to the board).
This concept did not sit well with Asher, who said she and her family will be seeking legal counsel, at which time Bowers said "have your attorney get with our attorney ... and now we will stop the conversation."
However, Asher did not stop, going on to argue the process, the board's accountability, Campbell's qualifications and the reasons behind her family's problems, going as far as to blame the town for several issues.
"Our plan is to seek legal counsel to fight this one," Asher said. "I don't care about the dirt piles, (my husband) has already started cleaning up the piles and most of the dirt came from town projects. We allowed them to put the dirt on our property because they were looking for a place for it."
"At your request," Bowers said.
"Some of it, yes, at our request," Asher responded.
They went on to debate for a good portion of the meeting, a debate which ultimately ended in the board saying "blame it on us" after Asher listed a myriad of issues with the town, ranging from window replacement to attracting small business.
Updates are expected in the coming months.
In other business:
* Eight dumpsters have been ordered for Community Cleanup Day on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The dumpsters are set to arrive on Friday, Sept. 22 and will remain in place in the lot adjacent to the Roachdale Fire Department. Officials will be monitoring to ensure no toxic waste is placed in the dumpsters and signs will be present with instructions as to exactly what ways the dumpsters are to be used.
Materials not accepted at the Community Cleanup Day event will be: Hazardous household chemicals, oil, oil-based paint, batteries, pesticides, computers, televisions, tires, fertilizers, air conditioners or refrigerators/freezers. These items will instead be accepted at West Central Solid Waste District Tox-Away Day on Sept. 16 at the Parke County 4-H Fairgrounds, 600 N. U.S. 41, Rockville.
Residents who need pickup or assistance with any cleanup project, or those who wish to volunteer, are encouraged to contact Roachdale Town Hall at 522-1532.
* One of Roachdale's biggest events of the year, the Roachdale Rib and Blues Festival, was approved to take place on Saturday, Oct. 7 from 11 a.m. through approximately 9 p.m. Thanks to the new Roachdale mural, more than 280 people have visited the town since its dedication in July. RRCA President Joe Buser, who gave this update from the Putnam County Visitor Bureau, hopes these numbers will be reflected at the 2017 Rib and Blues Festival.
* Halloween Trick-or-Treat hours were discussed and approved. The town will hold its Halloween hours from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31.
* The Roachdale Christian Church was approved to partner with Roachdale for Halloween activities/locations.
* Rich Kotite, a representative of Cellect Towers, updated the board of his efforts, encouraging residents of the area to "be the squeaky wheel" and contact their phone service providers to complain about signal quality (or the lack thereof). Only by doing so, he said, will he be able to move on and erect a tower in the area.
* A building permit was approved for 304 E. Columbia St.
* The radar trailer discussed in August was updated by Marshal Mike Mahoy, who said $6,900 of the $8,500 price tag had been raised through various fundraising efforts. The board then approved the remaining $1,600 for the police department to purchase and begin using the trailer at various locations ahead of harvest season.
* Clerk-treasurer Debbie Sillery is currently collecting empty, clean one-gallon milk jugs for holiday luminarias. Candles are also sought. For more information on how to donate or how to volunteer for upcoming holiday decorations, contact Town Hall at 522-1532.
* The next regularly-scheduled public session for the town of Roachdale is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 within Town Hall, 205 N. Indiana St., Roachdale.