Residents of the Kessler Boulevard neighborhood on the west side of Seymour are pressuring city officials to take action on a house that has caught fire twice.
At least one of those fires remains under investigation, but neighbors said the house is unsafe and should be condemned. Mayor Craig Luedeman said there is only so much the city can do legally, however, to address the problem.
And those steps have begun, he added.
Billie Combs, who lives next door to the house at 326 Kessler Blvd., said it’s more than just an eyesore but poses a threat to the neighborhood.
“There’s been a counterfeit operation busted at that house. There’s been heroin in that house. There’s been needles in that house. There’s rats in that house, mice in that house, roaches in that house,” she said.
The man who had been living at the residence, Brent S. Yates, has been back and continues to strip the house of its aluminum siding, windows and wiring, making a mess of the neighborhood, she added.
“There’s trash everywhere. It’s just horrible,” Combs said.
Another resident asked if something could be done about trash from the house blowing into other people’s yards.
One neighbor said there had been a Dumpster at the home, but it has since been taken away. He suggested another Dumpster be brought to the property.
The home is owned by Yates’ father, William Yates, according to property tax records.
Brent Yates was cited for utility fraud after the first fire reported Aug. 10, when it was discovered the Duke Energy electric meter was missing but the house was still receiving electric service. Investigators determined an electrical issue caused that fire.
“He goes in there 10, 11 o’clock at night with flashlights,” Combs said. “Something needs to be done.”
Besides the unsightly appearance of the home, Combs said it also “stinks of mold.”
“It’s horrible there, and we need somebody to help us to do something, because I do not feel safe to go to bed at night,” she said.
Luedeman said the city has issued the property owner a notice to correct the issues, and he has 30 days to comply. That citation was presented after the second fire with the 30-day deadline set for later this month.
“Legally, we cannot go in and physically do anything until that 30 days is up,” Luedeman said.
Combs said something should be done now before another fire happens.
“You can’t lay down and go to sleep at night, because he’s over their banging on things with his flashlights, smoking or whatever he’s doing,” Combs said. “It’s just not safe for the neighborhood.”
But city attorney Rodney Farrow said the city has to follow the law and observe the property owner’s rights too.
“If he’s violating the law, that’s one thing,” Farrow said. “But if he’s just smoking cigarettes, that’s not illegal. I’m sympathetic, but we’re doing what we can do as fast as we can do it.”
Combs said she doesn’t know what goes on in the house at night, but she’s worried the police get tired of her and her neighbors calling.
City council member Dave Earley suggested Combs call the Jackson County Health Department to get it involved too.
Luedeman said it can take years for the city to get a house condemned, but he hopes it doesn’t take that long to address this particular property.
“We’ve got another one that’s been sitting for three years that we’ve been working on, and we’re ready to go to court on it, finally,” he said. “I don’t want to see this one sit for three years, but it still could be a long battle.”
Combs asked if the city could step in if part of the home collapsed because even some of the support beams have been removed.
Another neighbor, Kenny Gray, said he thought the city should be able to seek an emergency injunction to be able to check the structural integrity of the home.
“If it’s not safe for the homeowner to be in there, is there not anything that could be done on that route?” he asked.
Earley said that’s where the health department should be able to help.
“I think the health department is going to be your best route to get something done,” Earley said. “Their department is going to be different than ours. If it is a health hazard, then that’s a totally different scenario.”
It’s possible the city could seek an emergency order from the court, but Farrow said it’s still a process that would have to be followed.
“When you get down to it, it’s just an eyesore, but the potential for a child to get into that home just out of curiosity is there,” Gray said. “There is nothing to keep anyone from entering that home. To me there should be something else that can be done.”
“There’s been a counterfeit operation busted at that house. There’s been heroin in that house. There’s been needles in that house. There’s rats in that house, mice in that house, roaches in that house.”
Billie Combs, who lives next door to a Seymour house that has burned twice