Citizens voice concerns with unkempt properties

By Crystal Burns

Citizens living on Second and Sixth streets in Trenton voiced concerns over unkempt properties in their neighborhoods during the June 11 City Council meeting.

Marvin Thomas said he saw a snake slithering across the driveway of a house on Sixth St. where the yard is grown up, providing perfect cover for reptiles and rodents. Charles Glenn who lives on Second St. asked the board to address vacant houses there that are so overgrown they can barely be seen.

Mayor Ricky Jackson and the city’s building inspector, Ricky Bailey, agreed the properties are nuisances but said dealing with them has been difficult. The property on Sixth St. is in tax default. Bailey said the city would mow the yard and would likely raze the house when the tax default process concludes.

The other two houses are not locally owned, and Bailey said fining the owners for violating city ordinances is a futile endeavor. Instead, the city has to wait until the properties go into tax default so they can claim the houses and sell them through a bid process or raze them, leaders said.

“You’ve never dealt with anybody until you try to deal with somebody that doesn’t even live here,” Jackson said.

The city has ordinances regarding property maintenance. Every owner or tenant is required to periodically cut the grass and “other vegetation commonly recognized as weeds” on his property. Letters may be sent to the owners when grass or vegetation has reached a height of over one foot. Failure to comply may result in the city cutting the vegetation and billing the property owner at the prevailing rate.

There are also health and sanitation requirements. It is “unlawful for any person to permit any premises owned, occupied or controlled by him to become or remain in a filthy condition…to allow the accumulation or creation of unwholesome and offensive matter in the breeding of flies, rodents, or other vermin on the premises to the menace of the public health or the annoyance of people residing within the vicinity.”

The city’s slum clearance ordinance provides procedures for abating unfit dwellings. After a hearing is held before a public officer and the officer determines that the dwelling is unfit for human habitation, the officer may require the owner to alter or improve the dwelling if the cost to do so doesn’t exceed 50% of the value of the dwelling. If the cost to repair, alter or improve the dwelling exceeds 50%, the officer may require the owner to remove or demolish the dwelling.

“Somebody else’s mess”

Alderman Billie Wade said he went and looked at the property on Sixth St.

“I know I would not live next to something like that, and I wouldn’t want anybody else to live next to something like that,” he said. “It’s messy right there. It’s just an eyesore for anybody.”

Alderman Tony Burriss addressed the men’s concerns.

“There are a lot of properties in the City of Trenton that need to be dealt with in all areas of the city,” he said. “If you don’t own it, there’s not much you can do except spend city money, spend taxpayer money to clean up somebody else’s mess. We hate to do that, but in some cases, like that house on 2nd Street, probably that’s what’s going to end up happening. We’re going to have to spend taxpayer money because some group in California won’t live up to what they are supposed to be doing. It’s not that we want to drag our feet on that stuff. It’s that we try as hard as we can to get the responsible parties to deal with it, so we don’t have to spend your money in order to take care of it.”

Burriss pledged the city would do the best it can to address the problems.

Utility update

Trenton Light & Water General Manager Joe Wamble gave an update on the utility department’s ongoing work. He said electric crews are removing trees, changing out bad poles and adding rip rap and concrete to hold eroding ditch banks in place near its rights of way.

The water department is repairing leaks and water meters and working with Nsite to finish Phase III of the city’s downtown enhancement project.

Sewer rehabilitation should start soon, Wamble said.

Wamble had good news about the new Sequencing Batch Reactor wastewater treatment plant on N. College St. At the time of his report, the plant had been in service 15 days and nights. Wamble said there had been “a glitch or two” along the way, but the tests on the treated water have surpassed all expectations.

“The test results from the discharge water going into the North Forked Deer River are excellent, not good but excellent,” Wamble said. “It surpassed every one of our expectations as far as the cleanliness of the water, so it’s doing a great job.”

Fireworks

Police Chief Bill Cusson said his department is creating pamphlets for patrol officers to pass out to citizens about the city’s fireworks ordinance and safety tips for buying and handling fireworks (see related story on page 1).

Cusson also reported that from May 20 to June 2, the department issued 40 citations for seat belts and child restraints during the Governor’s Highway Safety Office Click It or Ticket campaign. “That’s a pretty good number, a pretty proud number to report,” Cusson said.

The next City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, June 25 at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

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