City toughens trash/debris law

    Junk in your yard? Grass not mowed? Dilapidated vehicle out front ... or in the back yard?
    If so, you're probably going to be getting a visit from city officials in the near future, and this time — thanks to an amendment to the city's trash and debris ordinance approved on Tuesday night by city council — you're not going to be able to ignore the warning without being subject to penalties.
    In bringing up the issue, Mayor John Schultz said Board of Works and Safety member Bill Karbach, who has headed up the city cleanup campaign launched last year, "now needs to be assisted by us. We don't now have a tool to force cleanup of a property and collect (payment) for it."
    Karbach said he had considerable cooperation from property owners and non-owner residents last year. This year, though, it's back to the same people who didn't cooperate last year. "Cooperation days are over; now we need to use a little authority," he added.
    A point to be underscored is the fact that, as Karboch said, he gets many more "thank yous" than "flak" because, in general, neighbors are glad to see a property being cleaned up.
    Before passage, City Attorney Tim Baker explained that under the new rules, if a violation is discovered, a property owner and/or occupier will be notified and given 10 days to do something about it. If nothing happens, the city, under the ordinance, will be able to step in and make necessary changes to the property, then invoice the owner for the costs. If the bill is not paid, the numbers wiil be turned over to the county auditor and the payment will be added to the owner's next tax bill.
    To a question posed by Councilman Ken Meyer, Baker said a property owner could contact a lawyer to challenge the order through legal channels.
    Meyer noted that, eventually, the cleanup campaign will move to businesses.
    "It's time to really do something," the mayor said before council moved to suspend the rules of the normal process and pass the change on all three readings on 5-0 votes — placing the new ordinance into immediate effect.