By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board set a deadline of February 2 for final cleanup of the Eugene Ziebell property on High Street.
Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson told the Colfax Village Board at the January 26 meeting that he’d had contact with the village’s attorney about the abatement process for the Ziebell property.
Since progress has been made on cleaning up the property, the attorney is waiting to hear from the village board about whether to proceed with the abatement process, Police Chief Anderson said.
The abatement process could include a court order instructing Ziebell to clean up his property.
The Colfax Village Board approved the abatement process for the property on September 22 and again on November 13.
At issue for the Ziebell property are the complaints of neighbors concerning piles of lumber and trash, junk vehicles and a yard that 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 goes 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. Also, the village of Colfax will remove the property mentioned and the cost of this will be charged to you.”
A little progress
Sally Johnson and Dave Wolff, both neighbors of the Ziebell property, attended the January 26 meeting to say that while some progress has been made on cleaning up the property, not enough has been done.
Johnson and Wolff brought pictures with them of what they see when they look at the Ziebell property.
“It hasn’t been remedied,” Wolff said, noting that while progress had been made last fall, not much had been done recently.
Wolf says he understands that Ziebell has health issues, “but I could not get fair market value for my house (now) if I wanted to sell it.”
Ziebell told the village board he had hired a handyman to help him clean up the yard.
The pictures, Johnson noted, had been taken January 19 and show piles of rotting wood and other refuse.
Scott Gunnufson, village president, wondered if Ziebell would have hired a handyman if the village board had not pressed the issue about cleaning up the yard.
“It is getting done,” Ziebell said.
“There is still quite a lot of junk that needs to be hauled out,” said Village Trustee Beverly Schauer after looking at the pictures Johnson and Wolff had provided.
None of the deadlines set by the village board have been met, Wolff said, pointing out the village board has purchased land for a residential development and wants the village to expand but that no one will want to move to Colfax if the town does not look attractive.
Johnson said she, too, would not be able to get fair market value for her house if she wanted to sell it.
A van that had not been driven in a number of years has been removed from the property, but Johnson noted the vehicle had sat there so long on the driveway, the wheels had left deep ruts.
After the clean-up began, Johnson, fearing there were rats on the Ziebell property, said she had hired someone to set rat traps on her property and that eight rats had been caught.
“I don’t think it’s fair to Dave and I,” she said.
If the items on the Ziebell property were stored in a shed, it would be “no problem,” but when it is all outside, “it’s an eyesore,” Wolff said.
Gunnufson suggested Police Chief Anderson could use surveyor’s tape to mark the items that should be hauled away so Ziebell’s handyman could finish cleaning up the yard.
“Let’s get to that last piece,” he said.
Wolff said the problem with Ziebell’s yard has been going on for 20 years, although Police Chief Anderson pointed out that more progress has been made in the last six months than in the past 20 years.
If the situation gets to the point where the village’s attorney is involved and it is necessary to obtain a court order, all of the associated fees will be Ziebell’s responsibility and will be put on the property taxes, Gunnufson said.
“If it goes to court, all the costs go to you, Eugene. The faster you get it done, the better,” Police Chief Anderson said.
Gunnufson suggested that Police Chief Anderson take pictures of the tagged items, and if the tagged items are still there on Monday, the village’s attorney should be contacted.
“This is literally the last time I want to see this item on the agenda,” Gunnufson said.
The village board is not, however, singling out Ziebell, he said.
“We will be going around the village to enforce (the ordinance) with other junk properties,” Gunnufson said.
“On Monday, if the tagged items are still there, the Chief will tell the attorney to go ahead with the abatement,” he said.
Gunnufson noted that the only other time the Ziebell property would be on the agenda after this would be to approve the final release of the abatement process.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion directing Police Chief Anderson to work with Ziebell’s handyman to tag items and have them removed from the property by the morning of February 2.
Village President Gunnufson and Village Trustees Schauer, Mark Halpin and Jeremy Klukas voted in favor of the motion.
Village Trustees Susan Olson, Carey Davis and Annie Schieber were absent from the meeting.