Nuisance home discussed by city council 2016.01.13

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci city council members voted Monday to impose a Feb. 15 deadline before taking further action against the owner of an East Street South home.

The property located at 217 East St. South was first declared a nuisance in September 2014. A month later the owner stated that repairs were to begin within 30 days, but no progress was made.

By the following March, Restoration America of Illinois was the owner of the property. The organization rehabilitates homes for veterans. A representative from Restoration America visited city hall and provided a contact person, but no response was returned.

The group paid the cost of having the lawn mowed by the City, but two notices about the unsafe condition of the home were not acknowledged.

On Dec. 3 of last year, city building inspector Ray Taylor sent a certified letter to Restoration America asking for a response.

Council voted unanimously Monday to direct the city attorney to send a letter to Restoration America. The organization is to be advised of a firm deadline of Feb. 15 to provide a timeline for repairs. If this isn't forthcoming, a demolition order will be processed, with costs placed as a lien on the property. 

City administrator/clerk Michael Sessions cautioned council that placing demolition costs on the tax bill doesn't at all guarantee repayment. The City could be stuck with the costs that he estimates somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.

Because the organization helps veterans, said councilor Sean Seger, he favors giving the group an opportunity to make repairs before turning to demolition.

Unsafe conditions of the structure include:

• Poor condition of the roof;

• Overgrown foliage that poses a threat of decay to the foundation, wall framing and roof;

• Exterior siding missing in some areas and rotting in others;

• Areas of open structure on walls and doors that allow weather, insects and rodents inside;

• Broken glass panes leaning against the house.

PROPERTY—Leah Lewis of Pearl Street spoke to council about the condition of two homes in her neighborhood that are being purchased on a land contract. She described the situation as thinly-veiled unregulated rental properties, but since the homes are sold on land contract, rental inspection is avoided.

One house has had three different owners since Lewis bought her house in 2013. People move out and leave trash behind, then the process begins again with new buyers, she said. Lewis described the properties as nuisances. She erected a privacy fence to prevent the neighbors from parking on her lawn.

"I think the city can do better," she said. "If they're going to be treated as rental properties, they should be inspected."

Audience member Karen Sinks agreed, stating that one of the homes near her had five pit bull dogs. She said that she gets tired of complaining about the various problems.

EQUIPMENT—Council approved listing the City's two paper balers on eBay with a minimum bid of $1,500 each. The machines are no longer used because of curbside recycling. Prices paid for recycled paper is at an all-time low, Sessions said.

Council will seek closed bids for the sale a brush chipper, with the hope of receiving $7,000 for the unit. The chipper has not been used for two years, said city supervisor Barney Vanderpool.

Proceeds from the sale of the equipment will be used to buy an industrial air compressor for use by the DPW. Vanderpool said he currently has to borrow a unit when one is needed for blowing out water lines, powering a jackhammer, etc.

AUDITOR—Council voted to continue using Baker, Eaton & Owen to complete the City's annual audit. This year's audit will cost $8,300, following increases to $8,600, $9,000, $9,250 and $9,350 over the next four years. The 2016 cost is a $1,000 less than the current year due to the removal of the library's books from the audit.

FIRE—Sydney Borton was approved as a new fire department member. She will take first responder training to assist the EMS squad and might not move on to firefighter training.

RIBBON—The Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. Jan. 22 to celebrate the new location of Bell's Tax Service.  

GRADUATES—Nine people received certificates for having attended all five sessions of the council orientation and Citizen Academy: residents Ed and Vi LaNew, Betty Yenor and Nash Walsh; council members Leonie Leahy, Denise Walsh, Sean Seger and Jeff Bell; and city administrator/clerk Michael Sessions.