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Owner complains about city clean-up

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

A property owner came to City Council on Monday to complain about a bill she received and the work that was done when the city cleaned a property she owns.

Virginia Mays, who owns property at 1716 East St., complained about the cost of cleaning up that property and the amount of trash the city said Street Department employees hauled away. She claimed there had not been that much trash.

Tom Creech, manager of the city transfer station, said that when the city does a clean up, the truck hauling the waste is weighed and that there is no reason for any Street Department employee to be dishonest about how much rubbish there is.

May’s major complaint was that said she believed the city’s violations enforcement officer had not kept his word that he would take no enforcement action as long as she was making progress to clean the property.

She had received a letter dated June 13 stating that the property was in violation of the city’s unkempt properties law. She said she called the city’s violations enforcement officer, who said that as long as he could see she was making an effort to clean it up, he would take no further action. She said she started cleaning the property started right away and that she had taken a load of leaves and refuse to the city dump on July 3.

On July 11, the violations officer sent a work authorization to the city police to start city clean-up of the property. She said the officer knew she had started cleanup there. She was not aware of the authorization order and continued cleaning up the property. Weeds were sprayed and taken down, trees were cut, and nine more loads of trash were taken to the dump, she said.

On Sept. 5, the officer sent another work authorization to the city. On Sept. 23, “without additional warning,” the Street Department sent a crew, a loader and trucks to the property. The city charged her $2,323 for the work, she said.

She provided several pictures the Code Enforcement Officer and Street Department employees took to justify the clean-up order and to show the work completed.

She said the pictures taken by city employees did not show the actual appearance of the property after the employees reported the work was complete.

“They stood back and took the pictures in the shadows, making it appear as the though it was nice and cleaned up when in fact it was not,” Mays said. “Which, I believe was an intentional act in an effort to misrepresent what was actually done and manipulate the truth.”

She showed pictures of steps to the residence and a fence post that she said had been damaged by city vehicles. She also showed pictures of unkempt city property.

Council members Diana Phillips and Mike Bishop said that even though the property was being sold on contract, it was still Mays’ responsibility to clean the property. Phillips also said that May should have kept in contact with the violation enforcement officer. “What one person sees as progress might not always be what the other person sees,” she said.

Later in the meeting, Council member Chad Frank suggested that while there clearly had been an ordinance violation, Mays had made progress before the city cleaned it. She should have been given a deadline to complete the clean-up project, he said.

“if  we’re going to extend a timeline, we should give them a timeline as well,” he said. It’s a matter of common courtesy.

Mayor Harold Gordon said there is a timeline in the ordinance and it had not been met. He said that “90 days is pretty common courtesy.” He said that when Mays talked to him, she had said her husband could have cleaned it in 5 hours by himself, which is the amount of time the Street Department had been there. Gordon asked, then why didn’t he do it?

Other business on Monday:

• The council passed the salary ordinances showing pay increases of 1% for most city employees and the mayor. The clerk-treasurer received a $4,000 pay increase and City Council, 4%. The council also passed the 2020 budget.

• Council’s approved advertising for an additional appropriation to install overhead doors at the new EMS building. Mideast Machinery Movers of New Paris, Ohio, and Ripberger Construction of Fayette County will install three doors at a total cost of $36,142, including the engineering fee by HPH and Associates of Connersville. 

EMS has five ambulances in the building on Park Road. The building has two overhead doors so ambulances must be parked behind other ambulances.

Richard Pea, 95, a founding member of what was then known as the First Aid Unit, said the doors are needed because if the lead ambulance does not start, then it takes time to push it out of the way to get the next ambulance out of the building. In saving lives, seconds count.