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Oskaloosa city council and property owner butt heads over large find

by Dennis Sharkey

A new city ordinance drew some fire last Thursday from a property owner who has been affected.

Carolyn Shultz went before the Oskaloosa City Council to ask for a $1,000 fine to be rescinded. Shultz received the fine for allegedly not mowing two properties after she received notice.

Earlier this year the council passed an ordinance that levels a $500 fine if a property is not brought into compliance within 10 days of receiving the letter. The city then performs the work and assesses the fine against the property owner’s property taxes.

Shultz said she received the letter June 19 and eight days later mowed the grass and weeds as the letter indicated.

However, on one of Shultz’s properties was a large brush pile and an assortment of trash including car parts, appliances and playground equipment. The city removed three dump truck loads of materials from the property.

But Shultz says she wasn’t told to do anything about the brush pile or the trash. City Councilman Jim Faris, who is in charge of sending the letters, confirmed that the letter does not saying anything about the brush pile or the trash.

“Evidently nobody went and checked after we mowed them,” she said. “If they had I wouldn’t be here. I did what I’m supposed to do.”

Furthermore, Shultz said that the brush pile and trash have been illegally dumped on her property by surrounding neighbors. Councilman Mike Paavola said that two people told him they were dumping brush on the property.

Councilman Allen Wise said he understood Shultz’s frustration, but also said the city cannot police the dumping.

“I appreciate both sides of what’s going on here but the city cannot be responsible for people throwing stuff on your lot,” Wise said.

Shultz also said she believed the city was being selective in who they police. She presented a four-page list of properties that were not in compliance and provided pictures to go along. Included in some of the listings were city owned property such as the lot next to the Independent office. On more than one occasion this year the lot has fallen out of compliance before being mowed by the city.

“This town is getting trashier,” she said. “But you can’t go out and pick out four things. All I’m saying is be fair.”

Shultz said she mowed all around the brush pile except for an area about the size of a table because of water issues. She said the small area is constantly wet.

Wise and Faris both asked Shultz if she called the city after she mowed. Shultz said she did not and was not advised to do so. Faris said the letter does not ask for the city to be contacted. Shultz said she has received letters in the past and has taken care of the problem with no issue.

Consequently Wise said the city needs to review the letter and a phone call may be added to the letter.

“I think there were flaws on both sides,” Wise said.

Wise asked Shultz if she would be willing to pay some portion of the fine. She said no because what was asked of her had been taken care of.

Mayor Mike Boyd was not so understanding. He told Shultz that if she had a problem with the fine, she should have spoken up before a letter was sent.

“Nobody once stepped through this door from the community asking why the fines are so high,” Boyd said. “Nobody ever wants to talk about it until it hits their box.”

Boyd then told Shultz that technically she did not comply because the wet area was not mowed.

Shultz told the council that if they would have asked her to do something about the brush pile she would have complied.

That prompted Boyd to ask City Superintendent Bill Heard if the city was still in possession of the brush and trash. The question drew a half-hearted laugh from some council members.

At that point Paavola had heard enough and made a motion to rescind the fine.

“You guys are going the wrong direction now,” Paavola said in response to Boyd’s inquiry.

The council voted unanimously to rescind the fine except for Council President Kelly Hattemer, who was not present for the meeting.

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Posted by on Oct 16 2010. Filed under Government, Municipalities, Oskaloosa. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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