By Leah Sander
PIERCETON — Conversation regarding addressing an ordinance violation turned heated at the Pierceton Town Council meeting on Monday, July 12.
Council voted to grant a couple three more months to finish cleaning up the exterior of their property, at 504 E. Keith St., which had come under a town ordinance violation for clutter in their yard.
The issue came up at the June council meeting when Steve Dicken asked council members to address the violation. He purchased a nearby house to renovate and flip and is worried the run-down property will make it difficult to sell.
At the June meeting, the council OK’d notifying the couple that they had 30 days to comply or the town would have to start fining them.
Dicken came to Monday’s meeting to see if the council would enforce the fines. The couple hasn’t completely cleaned up the property.
“Once the citations have been issued, they have 10 days to pay them or they can contact the board to go in front of you three to contest the ordinance. If no one appears to contest it or ask for an extension, then the citations will stand and they will have to pay them,” said Town Police Chief Tim Sammons.
Council Member Mandy Espinoza added that the council only knew about it in June.
Dicken responded that Sammons and Town Attorney Tammy Keirn had communicated about the issue in March.
“It may have been going on with you and maybe with them, but we don’t get notified until last month and you want us to drag people through the mud and get things done on the snap,” said Espinoza. “It takes time.”
He and Dicken argued a bit, before Dicken countered: “You’re not related to them too, are you?”
That angered Espinoza.
Earlier in the meeting, it had been revealed that Town Clerk-Treasurer Myra Mast had recused herself from the issue because she and the couple that live in the home in question have a relative in common.
“Tammy and I did talk in March,” said Sammons. “We thought that it could get worked out because it is a small community. And I got busy, Tammy got busy, whatever the case may be. It came back to light. I’ve been in contact with (Dicken). I get where he’s coming from, I do understand that. And also the other situation where you’ve got elderly people involved and it’s tough for them to clean up, but at the end of the day, we have ordinances that are in place, my office has to uphold those.”
The couple’s daughter Kim Rose was at the meeting to represent them. Council President Tom Barker asked her if the cleanup project could be completed soon.
“They can’t do it; I mean they’re almost 80 years old. My mom has Parkinson’s. They’re taking her to a doctor every week,” said Rose.
She then pointed out that other people in the area also have properties that wouldn’t meet compliance standards and noted the progress that had been made at her parents’ home.
“Are we going to start issuing citations to other people too?” she said.
“If you want to file a complaint about other people’s property … my door is always open. Just like this gentleman, he started the process,” said Sammons.
“We just don’t do that in small towns, we just don’t go after other people,” said Rose.
“I’m not saying we’re going after anything, but that brings up a very good point that I want to make clear to the board,” said Sammons. “I’m hearing through the community that the police are singling them out and I find offense to that. You guys have put me in a place to enforce your ordinances, not to pick and choose who they go to. But when I hear in the community – because it is a small community – that Tim’s out to get these people, and Tim’s out to do this … and the Pierceton Police are out … I find that offensive because that is not my character and that’s not how I operate.”
“I think you’re making that up,” said Rose.
“You just said it,” said Sammons.
“I understand where Tim’s at on that,” said Barker, saying that small-town police often are accused by people of singling people out.
“It’s a tough situation for the police department to put them in, but let’s go back to where we’re at right now,” said Barker, inquiring again about how long it would take to clean up the property.
Rose said the family would still need some time to clean it up.
The council ultimately approved giving the family a 90-day extension to clean up. Barker reminded Rose that if the property was not up to standards by then, the council could charge the family $25 a day for noncompliance. That could be assessed back to the date of Monday’s meeting, said Barker.
“I wish we had a community service organization or a group that would step forward and help … but I don’t know who that would be,” said Barker.
In other business, the council:
- Heard that the town was applying for an Indiana Department of Transportation Community Crossings Matching Grant for roadwork.
- Heard that preparations are ongoing for Pierceton Days. The town’s annual festival is set for Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31.
- Discussed recent vandalism that occurred at Pierceton-Washington Township Park. A door at the concession stand and a toilet were damaged. “I think it was around $1,200 in damage,” said Town Superintendent Casey Boggs.
The council’s next regular meeting is 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 9, at the community building.