Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

Quite a mess

Residents say city’s mandatory clean-up unfair to some

September 6, 2001

For Jim and Linda Hattabaugh, cleaning up their property isn't a matter of taking the time and effort. Their daughter, Carrie Vess, said Jim Hattabaugh was on an oxygen machine virtually all day.

"She's not able to pick up my nine pound baby," Vess said of her mother, Linda Hattabaugh.

Vess spoke on behalf of her parents at two city council meetings. At the Aug. 13 meeting, she offered explanations of areas of the property that violated city ordinances, such as cars that don't work and a pile of lumber. At the Aug. 27 meeting, Vess explained what items of contention were and weren't on the Hattabaugh's property and told the council what had been accomplished, like moving an automobile that no longer worked.

"This is just to show we're making an effort," Vess said.

The council took no action Aug. 27 and decided to continue to let the Hattabaughs work with city prosecutor Gayle Larkin on getting the property up to code. City attorney Jerry Cooley asked Vess and Hattabaugh whether they understood what still needed to be done.

"It's up to me, little by little," Hattabaugh said.

Because of her parents' health problems, Vess said she thought the city could have been more understanding.

"He's been in this town for years," she said of her father, who owns Jim's Tree Service. "The city never had a problem when they needed emergency work."

Jim Hattabaugh's work trucks are also a source of contention for the city. The Hattabaughs are working through municipal court to resolve the issue of where he can park the trucks.

Moreover, friends and family who might be physically able to clean up the property can't come in on a whim, Vess said.

"Dad's got a lot of family, but they've got family, too. They're all just getting by like the rest of us."

The Hattabaugh's income goes to medical expenses, she said, making hiring someone to do the work impossible.

But Larkin said the city makes allowances for such situations.

"A lot of times people call me and tell me 'I want to clean it up, but I can't do it in 10 days,'" she said. In certain cases the city may be lenient. She said she'd been working with the Hattabaughs off and on.

And some city council members see a broader issue involving the community.

"I think sometimes you have to be considerate of the neighbors," Gregg said.

Council member Tom Pyle took a different approach at the Aug. 13 meeting.

"As I drive around town, there are a lot of places I see that appear to look a lot worse," he said. "I hate to make a judgment against anybody that may be having a hard time. They feel they are being pushed on."

But being pushed on is part of getting residents to clean up their property. Larkin said the process usually begins when the city receives a complaint about a property.

"I think neighbors probably most of the time don't want to complain to cause problems with their neighbors," Larkin said. "I got the majority from the city council members."

Sometimes complaints come in from people driving by, she said.

"I've had a lot of the people involved asking if I look for people in violation," Larkin said. "If there's a complaint made, then we go out and check that out. As an attorney, I don't go out and cruise the streets looking for those violations."

If residents violate city ordinances, the city serves 10 day notices to them and monitors to see whether they comply. Residents can also request a hearing before the city council, just as the Hattabaughs did. Larkin said that was the first hearing she knew about.

If property isn't cleaned up, the city has different remedies, Larkin said. She can file a case in municipal court, or the city can clean it up and charge the bill to the residents.

But 10 days isn't set in stone, Larkin said.

The city began a push to clean up Eudora several years ago when Rick Treas, city building inspector, had several cases going, Larkin said.

"Some members of city council gave me a list of about 12 people that they wanted action taken on," she said. "We've probably taken 15 to 20 properties off our list that have complied. A couple have been back and forth off and on the list, but some of the yards were significant nuisances, and they have complied and removed the hazards. I'm sure there are more out there."

One of the problems left at the Hattabaugh's house is a boom truck Jim Hattabaugh is in the process of repairing. Although he hadn't worked on it since June or July, he told the council he hoped to have a new boom on the truck by Christmas.

"It's up to me, little by little," he said.

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