What to do when your neighbor’s yard is an eyesore? Good question

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
It was standing room only at Tuesday’s Ramsey County Commission as they discussed what could be done about neighbors in the county who collected junk in their yards.

What can be done when a neighbor’s yard is an eyesore, was the question that occupied a portion of Tuesday’s Ramsey County Commission meeting.

Concerned residents from two places in the county attended the meeting to talk about neighbors who continue to fill their yards with junk, garbage and what some would call hazardous waste.

Allan McKay from the Lake Region District Health Department and Devils Lake Fire Chief Jim Moe were both present to give advice and discuss the issue as well.

What, if anything, can be done when a neighbor’s property has become an eyesore and a potential health hazard to others? That question brought neighbors from along Highway 19 and the Lakewood neighborhood to the commission.

Ramsey County States Attorney Lonnie Olson was there, also, to advise the county and its residents on what can be done on a legal level.

Moe explained that what they’d done in the city was to send a letter with a deadline for cleaning up the property and when it wasn’t done, Moe and his crew went in and cleaned up the property themselves. They had the weight of the city’s blighted and nuisance structures ordinances behind them giving them the right to do that.

Olson advised the complaining neighbors to approach the township to find out what ordinances they had or could enact that might address the situation. “You need something with teeth in it,” McKay said. Presently the frustration is high because one of the individuals responsible has been a habitual offender.

McKay agreed to go through the steps and to have the sheriff or one of the deputies go with him to visit with the offenders in hopes that they would take care of the problem themselves.

Other business

In other business before the commission the State Auditor was contacted by telephone and he reported that the audit of 2011 for the county was considered “clean and qualified, as good as it gets” and complemented County Auditor Elizabeth Fischer for doing such a good job. She emphasized that it was because her staff and the department heads managed their budgets so well that made the audit go so well.

Commission president Bill Mertens did commend Fischer for a job well done and thanked her.

Clark Steinhaus came to the meeting to discuss an alternative to buying out his home that had been voted on at the last meeting, but nothing was changed because it wasn’t on the agenda. If a special meeting is to be held it must be publicized and notice gone out within five days of the meeting.

Appraised values were approved and the county auction set for Nov. 20 at 5:15 p.m.

Representatives Dennis Johnson and Curt Hofstad and Senator Dave Oehlke were present at the meeting to discuss what they had learned about the situation with social services. Johnson reported on meetings he had in Bismarck with the governor and assured the county they would be monitoring the situation in the legislature when the session convenes.

“We will still have to defend it,” Hofstad reminded them.

“You will have to come and stand at the podium and explain the unmet need, but we feel pretty confident that this is possible.”

The hope is that the state would make up the difference in funding since the county was already spending 27 mills over the standard for the counties for social services. “We definitely qualify,” Hofstad said.

Johnson assured them, “I don’t foresee that it won’t be taken care of.”

They thanked Rhonda Allery from social services who had brought the issue to the forefront and helped them see the need to pursue the additional help for the funding discrepancies.

Kevin Fieldsend addressed the roads projects that were completed and needed to be completed in the county. He asked about the funding for the local match for the two larger projects that won’t be completed until next year although the bids have been advertised and let. Rep. Hofstad said he would look into that, too, and find out what the requirements were and if there was a ‘sunset clause’ they had to abide by for using that $6 million.