First case heard under new unsafe buildings ordinance

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The property at 571 E. 300N, Jasper, is unsafe and a danger to public health, the Dubois County Commissioners determined Monday.

They heard a case from the Dubois County Health Department about the hazards of the property and the unoccupied house, pole barn and several vehicles that sit on the site.

This was the first case to come before the commissioners as the Hearing Authority Board, under the county’s new unsafe buildings ordinance. The board listens to evidence and determines if the property has violated the ordinance and, if needed, issues an order on the property.

The health department, represented by attorney Dave Fritch, showed inspection reports and photos of the property. Shawn Werner, environmental health specialist with the health department, and Tim Lampert, chief deputy of the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department, testified that they went to inspect the property on May 31 and found bags of trash and debris stacked up on the front porch, underneath the deck and inside the house. Bags of trash and debris also filled a pole barn on the property as well as six vehicles and a semi trailer on the property. Werner said it looks as if the trash has accumulated on the property for years, which is owned by Julie Greener.

He said he emptied 20-gallon drums of water that had mosquito larvae growing because of the threat of West Nile virus. He also was concerned that about health hazards that could come from mold and from animals like rats, mice and bats who may inhabit the area because of the food and trash there.

The health department has received numerous complaints from neighbors who live near the property, which is what brought the property to the department’s attention, Werner said. There’s a hole in the house’s roof, which is another hazard, he said. Because of the hole, Lampert and Werner did not go completely inside the building, concerned about the roof possibly caving in, Lampert said.

On June 20, Werner issued Greener an order dated June 19, stating that she had 60 days to take care of the violations. Werner said he believed the house would have to be demolished because it was so severely damaged. After calling contractors, Werner learned it would cost as much as $15,000 to remove the trash, debris and dwelling.

Greener, who represented herself, said she has been working on the property, mowing and hauling away limbs. She said she has been living with her elderly mother and taking care of her as well as other ill and elderly relatives and friends, for which she is not paid. And she had back surgery in early May, she said. The last time Greener lived on the property was in the 1990s.

Some of the vehicles on the property work and have current plates, she said. The trailer is there to put items in when she is able to renovate and remodel the house, Greener said. That will happen when she has the money to pay for it, she explained.

Greener also said that some of the damage on the property, like the busted windows and bags, was done by neighbors and their children and pets.

She advised she needs more than 60 days to clean up the property, as she is still taking care of other people’s health needs. But she is doing what she can.

“It’s not perfect,” Greener said. “It takes a lot of time.”

The commissioners said that while they want to give property owners time to clean up their property, they are also concerned about the health hazards on Greener’s property. They declared the site as a public nuisance and directed Greener to follow the order, which includes cleaning up the property and demolishing the house within 60 days from the June 19 order.

They did not issue any fines in the case, but if the matter is not rectified in the 60 days, the county could take further action. That could include the county taking care of the hazards and putting that cost on the property as a lien, or pursuing compensation from the owner.




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