Lehigh Council hears of progress on nuisance-property violation

Moving forward to enforce a recently passed nuisance ordinance, the Lehigh City Council met Monday to discuss the progress of cleaning up a property deemed in violation of the statute.

Among the guests in attendance were Todd Redger and Melinda Wallace, son and daughter of Dee Ann Redger of Newton. Dee Ann owns the property at 210 S. Vernon and has been sent certified letters asking her to clean up the unsafe conditions on her property.

Following discussion at a special meeting Oct. 25, Todd Redger was asked to meet with Martin Rhodes, city nuisance-control officer, Councilor Todd Jost and Mayor Ron Duerksen to reinspect the property before the next council meeting. However, that meeting never took place.

At Monday’s meeting, Dan Tucker, a friend of the family, told council he had begun work to clean up the property in compliance with the resolution.

“Since last week, we’ve had two trailer loads of stuff,” he said. “We had so much on there the other day, the trailer broke an axle.”

Duerksen explained to Redger the importance of having a meeting at the property as soon as possible.

“You can’t know what we want unless we get together and go through it,” Duerksen said. “I think it’s extremely important that we do that. I don’t want to keep putting it off. I want to get it wrapped up, so you know where we’re going, and we know where you’re going.”

The meeting at the property was scheduled for noon, Tuesday, Nov. 16, and the meeting was left open to anyone who wanted to attend.

Council informed guests that following the special meeting, councilors discussed contacting Stutzman Refuse Disposal of Hesston to bring in one or more large trash bins for a fall cleanup campaign.

“They will bring in, for one week, the big trash bins at our cost of $85 a piece,” Duerksen said. “They did not think the transfer station would charge for handling that.”

Council agreed to bring in one dumpster for one week, beginning Nov. 29, to be placed along Main Street. If one dumpster is filled, another will be brought in to replace it during the week. A notice will be attached to the water bills notifying all residents they may use the dumpster during fall clean up.

Asked if this would be helpful, Redger said, “Yes, because I’ve been taking it to a burn hole 30 miles away.”

When asked if three weeks was an adequate amount of time to clean up the property Redger said, “That’s fine with me.”

City Clerk Rose Funk said she would make sure Redger and Wallace received copies of the city nuisance ordinance and resolution as soon as possible.

Duerksen said, according to Rhodes, anything permanently installed on city easements is the responsibility of the property owner to remove.

“So one of the issues is the fence, to bring that back off the city property,” Duerksen said. “That’s in the ground, so you’ll have to make a decision on that.”

A discussion concerning the boundaries of city easements on South Vernon included reviewing a city plat.

“The problem I see for you is the wood fence,” Duerksen said. “That needs to be repaired anyway” (or removed).

Wallace asked if it would be feasible to clean up the property first, then arrange an inspection meeting at a later date to determine what else needs to be done.

“I would prefer the other way, so you know what we’re looking at so there’s no question,” Duerksen said.

Wallace said, “If we totally disagree with anything, do we have no options? If we get most of it taken care of, is that something we can come back and negotiate on it? We’re doing a lot already.”

Council agreed that holding the Tuesday meeting and abiding by the ordinance and resolution was the best plan of action at this time.

“So this meeting Tuesday will clear things up,” Jost said. “We really want to help. This has been a long-standing issue, and it needs to be resolved and off the table.”

Duerksen said, “The other thing you need to understand is you aren’t the only ones we’ve been addressing. Just recently, two areas have been cleaned up that the city took action on. You’re not being singled out.”

In response Wallace said, “I think you guys have been very understanding with everything that’s happened in our family the last three to four years. Todd has worked hard to get things done there, and I just wanted to make sure you guys noticed that.”

In other business, the council:

n discussed an update on a recent bill from the City of Hillsboro for Lehigh Fire Department equipment, repairs and training.

Duerksen said he spoke with Steven Garrett, Hillsboro city administrator, and a check will be sent to Hillsboro with a deduction of $557.50 charged for fire-chief hours and the inclusion of $554.71 for repairs to the 1965 Chevrolet fire truck.

Councilor Eldon Kaiser suggested any vehicle expense regarding repairs in the future should be billed directly to the city of Lehigh.

“I think this is just part of the growing pains,” Duerksen said. “We need to find a way to make this work a little smoother.”

n heard Councilor Mike Geiman suggest the city look into obtaining a grant to upgrade to a new or used fire truck.

“We have to spend our own money first,” Geiman said. “In other words, you have to get a loan before you get a grant.”

Duerksen said he would contact Reiss and Goodness Engineers of Wichita regarding grants and ask if they would be able to bring a presentation to the next meeting.

n reviewed the need to investigate the steps necessary to bring the city up to current ISO standards.

ISO stands for Insurance Services Office, which makes an independent evaluation of many departments every 10 years or when major changes have occurred.

Many fire insurance companies use the ISO rating as one factor in setting the amount of premium that is paid on a particular property.

Councilor Monty Root said, “We’ve never talked to the ISO guy, we need a laundry list of where we need to improve.”

Duerksen said he would begin by asking Garrett about the ISO rating issue.

n discussed a letter from Brownie Troop No. 92, of Lehigh and Lehigh Township, asking for financial help from the city.

“This is the largest Brownie troop in the county of Marion,” said guest Louis Coyle. “It started out this year with $79 in the hole. I don’t know why, but the bills didn’t get paid last year. They have to work it off, so they asked if there’s any way to have your support.”

The troop is selling candles to pay for the $79 deficit and asked the council if it would agree to pay them to clean up the city park once a month and take on any other odd jobs to help with a total of about $250 to $300 they need to raise for future expenses.

“I think if the Park Committee wants to pick up half of it, the more we can do to make this town a community and keep this type of activity going, the stronger the town will be,” Jost said.

Council agreed to pay the Brownie troop $150 for future work for the city, and park chairman Root said he felt the Park Committee would agree at the next meeting to also pay them $150 for future work.

n recessed for a 10-minute executive session to discuss personnel. No action was taken following the recess.

n heard from Jost, who said he would schedule hanging the gate at the sewer pond before the next council meeting.

n was told by Geiman that a city resident complained the family cat was shot by a neighbor using a BB gun, and the family was faced with a $400 veterinarian bill.

Council had a brief discussion of the importance of getting information out to residents about the city cat and dog ordinances.

n was informed by Geiman that city water employees asked to be permitted to read water meters through the winter.

“We save a little labor when we don’t do it, but it runs into lots of problems on the billing when we average four or five months,” Geiman said. “Then, we have people disgruntled if their bill is way bigger.”

Council agreed water employees could read meters as weather permitted through the winter.

n agreed to begin discussing at the next meeting a list of more properties in possible violation of the nuisance ordinance and resolution.

“We need to do that, and we need to be fair to people we’ve already jumped on,” Geiman said. “We’ve got to keep going.”

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