The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 25, 2012

Unkempt properties draw ire of Pittsburg commission

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Code violations by owners of 183 properties cost the city coffers about $90,000 during the past year in unpaid assessments and staff time, which drew the ire of city officials at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting. They say they have little hope of recouping their costs.

All told, 4,496 properties were in violation of city codes.

According to figures provided by Bill Beasley, director of public works, the city sent out 2,379 letters from June 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, notifying property owners that their grass exceeded the 12-inch limit.

Of those, 219 did not comply, so the city mowed the grass and trimmed weeds, and charged the property owners by the hour. Fifty paid the fees, while 156 did not, Beasley said.

The city sent out 2,117 letters during the same time period, notifying property owners that they were in violation of the city’s trash and debris code. Of those, 41 did not comply, so the city removed trash and debris, and charged the owners accordingly. Fourteen paid the fees, while 27 did not.

In many cases, the properties are abandoned, Beasley said.

“We put the charge on the property taxes, but many times the owner doesn’t pay the property taxes,” he said after the meeting. “Then we have to wait three years, and if the property is sold in the sheriff’s sale, we try to recoup our costs that way. But often, the sale might not cover the taxes and liens on the property, so we can’t.”

The commissioners on Tuesday approved on first reading the usual special assessments to levy the costs of dealing with the nuisances. But before passage, Commissioner Marty Beezley didn’t hold back at telling fellow commissioners she was fed up with seeing the same names on the list year after year.

“They don’t intend to pay, and they’re going to wait us out, so if there’s something we can do in the interim to recoup some of that money, because everything we’re talking about doing, recouping that money, is going to cost us money also,” Beezley said.

She asked what other options the city could pursue.

“You get their attention when you take them into court,” said City Manager Daron Hall. “Nobody wants to stand in front of a judge and explain why they didn’t do what they should do. That’s a last resort, but I think it’s an option we’re starting to consider on the staff.”

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a request by Beasley to move forward with an estimated $15,000 in repairs to several buildings at Atkinson Municipal Airport that were damaged by wind in a storm on July 7. The damage includes parts of roofs and soffits being sheered away by wind, and a hangar door being ripped off its tracking. The city’s deductible is $10,000, and insurance will pay $5,000.

• Approved a request by SEK-CAP to sponsor a 2012 grant application to the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. The application seeks funding for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing for Pittsburg residents.

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