County looks at nuisance issues

Published 3:30 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Escambia County Commission is standing their decision to put an ordinance in place that prohibits junk and trash nuisances in the county.
During a meeting of the commission Monday, a hearing was held involving the Escambia County environmental officer and a resident who has been cited for breaking the ordinance.
Monday’s hearing was not the first hearing held on violations of the nuisances prohibited by the county, but may be the first case to face such stiff fines if action isn’t taken.
Billy Ellis, of 177 Randolph St. in the Canoe community, was given a month to continue cleaning up his property or face fines of $150 per day until the work is done.
Nancy Barton, environmental officer for Escambia County, said the property owner had already been cited for the issues on the property near Escambia Academy.
“I began an investigation on Aug. 9 to determine the condition at the property,” Barton told commissioners.
“At that time I didn’t go on the property because of the bad odor coming from there. There were also so many animals on the property and they evidently had fleas. They seemed aggressive as well.”
Barton said a truck on the property contained “a lot” of household garbage and Ellis had told her that was what was causing the odor.
“The yard seems to be so full that they cannot clearly park in their yard,” Barton told commissioners. “They are kind of partially parking in the road.”
Barton said that Ellis agreed to attempt to clean the property after meeting with her following her initial investigation.
County Attorney Thad Moore conducted the hearing about the issues surrounding the ordinance concerning junk and trash in the county.
“Do you feel the problems there would be a nuisance to adjoining land owners,” Moore asked Barton.
“Yes I do,” Barton said. “There are fleas on the property and several animals. There is a rotten smell coming from the truck and other areas of the property. Flies, maggots and roaches are always a problem with those issues. I would consider this a public nuisance.”
Following her initial investigation, Barton said a citation was issued to Ellis on Aug. 23.
“He was issued the citation at that time since the property had not been cleaned up,” Barton said. “He was sent a notice of this hearing on Sept. 6.”
Barton said since the citation and hearing notice had been sent to Ellis, some effort for cleanup of the property had been made.
“Although there has been some work done the property is still in violation,” Barton said. “There is a vehicle on the property that doesn’t have a tag on it and doesn’t appear to run. There are still other issues as well.”
When Ellis had his chance to speak, he said he had worked on the property but finances had been an issue for him in that effort.
“I’ve started cleaning up but I’ve had a lot of things to happen,” Ellis said. “I was taking care of my mama. She had Alzheimer’s and died. During that time things just got out of control. I don’t work a public job and I just haven’t had the money to get things done, but I have been working on it.”
Moore asked Ellis if additional time would help him to get in compliance with the ordinance.
“If the county gives you 30 days to cleanup the property, can you do it?” Moore asked.
Ellis said he believed he could.
Commission Chairman David Stokes told Ellis that individuals and groups are available to help those in need in these kinds of situations.
“There are people out there who are interested in helping you get things cleaned up,” Stokes said. “We want to try to all work together. It is the intent of the commission to work toward a good result for everyone. A lot of work can be done in a month. With Ms. Barton and the contacts of Commissioner (Brandon) Smith, I think you can get it to the point where it’s no longer in violation of our junk ordinance.”
Ellis has 30 days to clean the property or face fines of $150 per day until the work is complete.