By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Eugene Ziebell says he nearly has his yard cleaned up.
Ziebell gave a progress report to the Colfax Village Board at the December 8 meeting.
Meeting the clean-up deadline of Saturday, December 13, could avert the enforcement action already in the works that could lead to a court order.
At issue for the Ziebell property on High Street are the complaints of neighbors concerning piles of lumber and trash, junk vehicles and a yard that neighbors said was not kept mowed during the summer.
The village board is proceeding with the abatement process under Section 8-1-8 of the village’s ordinances relating to unhealthy, hazardous or unsightly materials on public or private property.
Following the September 22 Colfax Village Board meeting, Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson sent a letter to Ziebell informing him that he is in violation of the ordinance and that he had 30 days “to remove the unhealthy, hazardous, unsightly materials from the exterior of your property. This includes all refuse/rubbish/waste, inoperable and dilapidated equipment and/or machines, vehicles, tarps, woodpiles, as well as any other items on the exterior of the property considered to be in violation of this ordinance.”
The letter went on to say, “If this notice is not adhered to, and the above mentioned property not abated by October 22, 2014, you could be subject to daily fines until the property is taken care of.”
Heavy snow last winter caved in the roof on a storage shed, so the shed had to be covered with a tarp until better weather arrived, Ziebell told the village board at the December 8 meeting.
Ziebell also noted that he’d had a medical condition that required surgery.
Through the help of his daughter and her family, many of the items stored in his yard finally had been loaded up and hauled away.
“I wanted it out of there, but I was stuck,” Ziebell said.
As for the old van in his yard, “I had visions of someday using it again. We had a lot of fun with that. As time went on, I said, no, it’s too old. It would cost too much,” he said.
Ziebell said he had contacted several salvage companies that had indicated they would pay him $150 to $200 for the van for scrap metal.
None of those companies came to get the van, so Ziebell contacted another salvage company.
Eventually the van was hauled away, but instead of receiving $200 for it for scrap, Ziebell said it cost him $800 to have it hauled off his property.
“But I had to get it done. I had to get it out of there,” he said.
Ziebell brought recent pictures of his yard to show the village board.
“There are a couple of items left to get,” he said.
“The yard looked crappy. On Labor Day, I wound up in the hospital. The next day I had major surgery for a hernia,” Ziebell said, noting that he was in a nursing home for rehabilitation after the surgery.
Ziebell said he had hired a man who lives just outside of town to help him with the clean-up as well and that he would like to hire him in the spring to also get some painting done and to spruce up the yard.
Ziebell noted that his ability to lift items is compromised because of back problems and a prior back surgery.
“I’ve got a lot of things going on. A lot of stress. It’s not good. I’m diabetic. I’m holding on. I will do the best I can. I want my yard completely clean. I want the house painted. I want to get flower beds back in,” Ziebell said.
Earlier stories published in the Colfax Messenger indicated that Ziebell’s neighbors had complained, too, about the lawn not being mowed during the summer.
Ziebell said it was not true that his yard was not mowed this past summer and that it was only a two-week period when the grass was not cut.
Ziebell assured the village board that the remaining items in his yard would be hauled away by Saturday (five days after the village board meeting).
Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson said he had visited Ziebell earlier on the day of the village board meeting.
“Compared to where it started out, it’s a huge improvement,” he said.
At the second village board meeting in November, Police Chief Anderson said he had sent off the paperwork and documentation to the village’s attorney for review. At that point, if the remainder of the yard had not been cleaned up, it would have required a court order from a circuit court judge for the village to proceed with hiring someone to clean up the yard and then assessing the cost back to Ziebell.
Going through the courts would most likely take at least several months, Police Chief Anderson noted.
“As long as he is showing progress, and things are getting taken care of, then I do not see an issue. I do not believe it would go that far (as a court order) as long as he gets it taken care of,” he said
“We appreciate you taking the initiative to get that improved,” Village President Scott Gunnufson told Ziebell.
By saying the cleanup of the property will be finished by Saturday, “we will take your word at that. We’re not going to retract anything in progress,” he said, adding that if everything was done by Saturday, Police Chief Anderson could then take the steps necessary to retract the abatement.
“I want it made known we’re not picking on you. We have several other properties in the village that we will be going down the same path as well. It has nothing to do with you personally,” Gunnufson said, adding that the village was attempting to take care of the bigger problems first.
“If there are still little tiny things (in the yard), well, you can’t be perfect every day,” Ziebell said.
With the snow on the ground, not everything is going to be able to be picked up, and the village board is not expecting Ziebell to rake the lawn with the snow on the ground, Gunnufson said.
Ziebell noted that one of the tarps was frozen down and that he hoped it would be thawed out by Saturday.
“We’ve got a handle on it, and we’re taking care of it,” he said.
Ziebell told the village board that he appreciates Police Chief Anderson and the work he is doing.
“My dad was Chief of Police in town for about 20 years,” Ziebell noted.
Ziebell told the village board that at his father’s funeral, police cars from the county, the state patrol and other municipalities had been lined up for about a mile going out to the cemetery.