City to target eyesore areas

Official: ‘I’m going to be even more aggressive’

One local official wants to see the city take more action against people who don’t clean up and maintain their properties.

Seymour City Councilman Jim Rebber said he doesn’t think the city’s current ordinances are “tough enough” to prevent some of the poor and derelict conditions that plague areas of the city.

“I am stopped at least once a month about this,” Rebber said. “If we don’t have strong enough ordinances, it becomes a game, and we can’t let the city keep looking like this.”

Rebber said there are too many properties that are not maintained and are overgrown with weeds, covered in trash or have junk cars parked on them.

“In the many years I’ve been on city council, this is probably the thing I hear most from citizens, ‘Why can’t we clean up this town, and why are we allowing our city to not look its best?’” he said.

The board of public works and safety, of which Rebber is a member, recently voted 3-0 to allow a resident to make payments of $100 a month in order to pay off $700 in public nuisance fines he has accumulated on properties at 206 and 212 E. Brown St.

Rebber said the city hasn’t always been able to issue fines for nuisance properties.

Ordinance administrator Brent Goben said he was first granted the authority to write public nuisance tickets by the board of works in 2007.

“But it’s a last recourse,” he said. “I really don’t want to just run around town writing tickets.”

Goben said since 2007, he has become more aggressive each year on cracking down on nuisance properties.

“And this year, I’m going to be even more aggressive,” he said. “You will see more tickets this year. But once I write the ticket, it’s out of my hands.”

Complaints of nuisance properties are generated by Goben or someone calling it in. He then takes pictures of the property and writes a letter to the property owner as a warning.

“They have 10 days to get it cleaned up, and then I go back and inspect, and if it’s not cleaned up, I write a ticket,” he said.

Fines are $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense, and then $500 per day after the third ticket. The matter is then turned over to the city attorney to collect the fines in court.

Goben estimated 85 percent of complaints about nuisance properties involve trash.

“That’s the main thing I deal with,” he said.

Rebber said he suspects the biggest problem is repeat offenders and has directed Mayor Craig Luedeman and city attorney Rodney Farrow to take a look at how other communities fight the issue.

“They get fined, they pay it off, they get another fine and it becomes a game,” Rebber said. “I would like to see how other cities handle this, and are we tough enough to be able to get the repeat, habitual people? Are we strong enough to get this stopped?”

Rebber said he believes Goben is doing all he can at this time.

“But if we don’t have something strong enough to get it stopped, then it becomes a game,” he said. “You just can’t let your city continue to look like this.”

Ordinances are available to the public on the city’s website at seymourcity.com under “City Departments,” “Planning and Zoning” and then “Seymour, Indiana Code of Ordinances.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.