With a high attendance expected, the regular Board of Supervisors meeting was moved to the courthouse conference room on Nov. 4. Environmental Health Officer David Rhodes proceeded with the second reading of the proposed Wayne County Nuisance Abatement Ordinance to a packed room with Wayne County residents trickling out both doorways.
With the attendance nearly split in half of some hoping to voice concerns over a potential private gun shooting range coming to the county and the remaining residents wanting to voice concerns over the nuisance abatement ordinance. It was a split meeting of some wanting the board to control private land while others want less control to be had by government officials.
“This ordinance is just for some public health issues,” Rhodes began. “It’s not for nuisances as far as how people live, how their houses look or how they keep their property. It’s a nuisance onto your neighbor’s property is what this is about.”
“We are trying to protect the individuals that may deal with intruding onto their properties from neighbor with environmental issues,” Rhodes continued. “Some examples of environmental issues would be rats, varmints, anything that can carry a disease that can bring it into your household that would be a big one. Trash that they throw out into their backyard and it flies out into fields, it gets to be an issue, that’s where all of this is headed for issues like that.”
Supervisor David Dotts asked Rhodes to explain where the proposed nuisance ordinance originated.
“Every so often I get a phone call from a neighbor saying they have a property that is having some problems,” Rhodes said. “One of them was a house that was being rented in the country and all that happened there was for I bet two years, they took their trash and threw it in a pile in the backyard. Some of it in bags, some of it not.”
“Eventually that trash bag is going to rot and animals will get into it,” he continued. “It started blowing into the neighbors fields. I wrote letters to the tenants and the home owner and from that they did clean it up and they did a pretty decent job which was great, but then it gets you to thinking what if they wouldn’t have cleaned it up?”
Rhodes stated he contacted Wayne County Attorney Alan Wilson and asked what could be done if they ever needed to push forward. He advised they could go through the state codes and eventually get somewhere, but it wouldn’t be anything he could sink his teeth into.
“We decided to come up with an ordinance that would help him with some of the nuisances in Wayne County,” said Rhodes. “State Code is still there, it’s just so broad so we wanted to narrow it down for us to help protect.”
Rhodes informed those in attendance all definitions from the ordinance were taken word from word from the state ordinance.
If there is a complaint that is filed, the person filing said complaint would need to fill out a form that will include name, address, phone number and what the subject of the complaint is. Each complaint will be signed and dated and at that point, the form will become public knowledge.
“Anyone would be able to know who is filing the complaint,” said Rhodes. “There is no coming in just trying to get somebody in trouble. No secrets.”
“So really it has to be a neighbor?” asked Stewart Everman.
“With the complaint being filed the first steps of the investigation is to find out if it is impeding on the neighbor,” said Rhodes. “If I find out it’s just somebody driving down the road, then you can’t complain if you’re not impeding on the neighbor.”
Rhodes will be involved in the investigation where we will take photos and notes upon investigation. That information will be taken to the Board of Health where they will then determine how far action will be taken.
“It’s not me making this decision, I just do the investigation,” said Rhodes.
“Where is this Board of Health at?” asked Everman. “So it’s local people doing it, and not someone up in Des Moines?”
“It’s a Wayne County Board of Health,” answered Rhodes.
The Board of Supervisors clarified this is only for the county as cities have their own ordinances.
“Whether the city chooses to follow through on them or not that’s between you and the towns,” said Supervisor Tom Swearingin.
“I don’t represent the cities, only the county,” said Rhodes.
Those in attendance wishing to speak signed in at the beginning of the meeting where they were informed they would each be given five minutes to ask questions. Supervisor Don Seams requested each person wishing to speak be given their time and not be interrupted by others to be fair.
Following the list in order, Swearingin called the first name to speak.
“I’ve read through this and you’ve got a real vague ordinance here,” said Tom Rogers. “It’s wide open. Good intentions and bad intentions.
Rogers stated his concerns with the proposed ordinance, which seemed to echo throughout the room by other residents.
“It does not say only your neighbor,” said Rogers. “You might go with that rule, but you’re not going to be the men here in 20 years. This board is not going to be here for 20 years.”
“I’ve heard that before and I think you have some members here that have common sense,” said Seams. “I was raised on a farm all my life and my dad had old vehicles that eventually became valuable and they didn’t hurt the neighbor one bit.”
“The more specific you get the more specific you have to be in enforcing this,” said Swearingin. “As David (Rhodes) said, this all came out of the state.”
“If it’s already in the state then why do we need to do it?” asked Rogers.
“I think local control is a lot better than state control,” said Seams.
“We can add more teeth to this, but we can’t take any away,” said Swearingin.
As the board continued down the list concerns were heard on the potential gun range south of Allerton, however it was decided those concerns would be heard at a later date to stay on subject with the nuisance abatement ordinance.
Kathy Moorman spoke next stating,” I am opposed to this as I think we have enough rules.”
“That’s why we live in the county,” Moorman continued. “If you live in town you expect your property is going to affect the person next to you and you expect to have to abide by nuisance laws. When you live in the county, as long as you’re not growing marijuana or doing something illegal I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what you’re doing out there.”
“If you do move forward and believe this is needed, I think you should add to it on the house situation that it is only in the case of the health or safety of a minor child,” Moorman added. “If it’s only adult people, then it’s their business.”
The board continued to hear further objections to the proposed ordinance from residents believing there doesn’t need to be further laws imposed in the county.
“I’m totally against this ordinance and I believe this is a major infringement of our rights,” said Fonda Bradford. “We like to be able to live without being bothered. I think you’re overstepping your boundaries.”
Tyson Polsdofer agreed with Bradford and added, “If the county is so worried about weeds then maybe they need to mow and clean up the ditches first.”
Moving on through the list, Ron Snow was next to speak.
“I live on Highway 2, I’m the guy with all the cars as I’m sure you all know,” Snow began. “I have cars that mean my life to me and I will fight and die for them.”
“I know my stuff has been in this meeting already, I know I’ve been discussed in this meeting already,” said Snow. “You’re going to have to hire more people to help you do what you’re supposed to be doing. My neighbor is the one that called and told me to be here today.”
As the supervisors worked down the list of names, it was realized more were there to voice their reasons for being against the private gun range.
“Yes I get we are at opposing issues,” said Bridget Davis. “I want you to protect my rights to live in a quiet neighborhood. The other hand of that issue is leave us alone.”
“We pay our taxes and we have our little neighborhood there and it’s quiet, I want to have it peaceful,” Davis said. “I don’t have a problem with a shooting range, I just don’t want it in my backyard.”
“I understand what you’re saying, we’re on two separate issues,” said Swearingin. “Some of you are wanting us to leave you alone and some of you are wanting us to inflict upon this guy and tell him what to do.”
“I’m going to be in contact with the county attorney to find out exactly what role we have in this,” said Supervisor David Dotts.
Nick Sulser began thanking the supervisors for allowing the residents to speak to voice their concerns.
“There are some issues that I would have to say I agree with that we might need some of this ordinance,” Sulser began. “Certain aspects of what you guys are trying to do, but I don’t think we need to hand that much power to county government. If you’ve got a really serious issue with rats then we can look into that.”
“I’ve had a serious problem at my place with an abandoned property that adjoins my property,” said Bob Ziegler. “The house is unlivable. There is junk everywhere. Garbage everywhere and I had a real bad experience with rats.”
“They dug underneath the cement in my building where they dug up in the rock and cost me between $7,000 and $9,000 worth of damage,” Ziegler said. “They completely ruined a lot of stuff chewing up wire clear down where it had to be replaced.”
“This is something I want to see, this is something that concerns me as there was nothing I could,” Ziegler stated. “We need something in writing to help a situation like this because there was nothing I could do at the time. This is why I’m here. This is one of the things I hope will be addressed and taken care of.”
Ziegler stated over 75 rats were killed from this instance on his property that cost him a lot of money for repairs and solving the rat problem.
“Not everybody is going to be happy about this, and everybody is going to have to give a little bit, but if there had been something in effect for Wayne County when this happened they could have done something,” Ziegler added. “Anytime you get the DNR involved for just one little thing, they look right over the top of that and they start digging and they dig deep.”
Gary Everman questioned the difference between automobile and agricultural equipment listed in the ordinance. He noted the ordinance needed work.
“I’ve sat here and listened to everything that’s been said and I don’t want to live next to a junkhole,” said Greg Nickell. “I’m 100 percent opposed to this.”
“Will this be opened up where the community can vote?” asked Snow.
It was noted there would be a third reading of the proposed ordinance that will take place at the next regular Board of Supervisors meeting. The nuisance abatement ordinance will be read through in it’s entirety for a third time and following the supervisors will be able to vote on the ordinance.
In other business the board accepted a contract from Karr Tuckpointing to remove caulking a put new in on courthouse windows. It was also noted Teresa Young and Mackenzie Boyd were moved to fulltime employment status at the Wayne County Sheriff’s office while Amanda Richards is no longer an employee.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 18 at 9 a.m.