The Hoisington City Council met for a brief meeting Monday night, with only one item of unfinished business on the agenda. After extending the deadline for the Linsner family to clean up the property located at 122 E. Railroad another 60 days in July, it was up to the council to decide what next steps would be taken. The hearing led to a heated discussion between council members Chris Smith and Jim Sekavec.
Dolores Kipper, the city’s new ordinance officer, presented council members with folders containing photos of the property taken in 2013, April of 2015, and earlier the day of the meeting. Included was a copy of the purpose of Article 2A of the city code describing dangerous and unfit structures (see sidebar). A list of items the city demanded be attended to at the April show cause hearing was also attached, with only two items indicating sufficient progress had been made. In the five months the family has been given, so far collapsing and exposed roofs had been fixed, but several of the buildings remain open to the elements through broken windows and non-existent doors, as well as large cracks in the foundations. Of further concern was the continued presence of stored materials, including rotting wood, that could pose a fire hazard, as well as several junk vehicles that could attract nuisance animals. In all, the structure is still considered a blight to the neighborhood, Kipper indicated.
Board members looked over the evidence and some, including Michael Aylward, noted signs of improvement. John Sekavec inquired about whether the building was insured. Representatives of the Linsner family, Todd and Robin Linsner, said they were uncertain. They stated that they were there on behalf of his father, and had been involved in recent cleanup efforts. He stated that while he and his family had plans to complete the work, he had been delayed yet again by an illness associated with a spider bite. This was met with skeptical remarks by some board members, to which Robin Linsner stated she could produce evidence if the board required it.
At one point, another Linsner family member, Kevin Linsner, arrived, stating he had checked the city website which indicated the meeting started at 7:30 p.m., and apologized for his tardiness. He informed the board that he too was assisting with the cleanup efforts after recently moving to the area from Texas. He described plans for further application of metal siding to cover exposed wood and to cover open windows on the west side of the building.
It was at this point that council member Chris Smith interrupted.
No more excuses
“I don’t really care about the outside of the buildings,” she said. “This metal is only a band-aid. The junk inside the privacy fence is still there, and that’s what the real hazard is.”
Sekavec intervened for the Linsners, noting that they were taking care of what is visible from the street, and that if the council intends to go after what is on the other side, there are a lot of other properties in the city that have equal amounts of junk behind their fences too.
“Any outsider from out of town wouldn’t see it,” he said. “If we are going to pick on them (Linsners), we need to get in there and pick on others.”
Smith agreed, adding that the council doesn’t want to put up with it from anyone, and more should be done to force others to clean up and that is what the council is trying to do.
Other council people spoke up also, including Brian Wilborn, who reiterated that the original concern over the property began in 2013, and little progress had been made so far. The Linsner family representatives again stated that they had not been involved in the clean up in 2013.
Karen Van Brimmer sided with Sekavec, noting that the roofing had been repaired and replaced. She suggested another 60 day extension might be in order. Wilborn asked how much money had been spent so far on the family’s efforts, to which Todd Linsner replied around $15,000. His father came into possession of the property with his aunt about five years prior in an inheritance he said. There had been family and legal issues concerning the property and who would be responsible financially for it, and during that time it had deteriorated.
Again, Smith stated she’d had enough excuses and was ready to move forward with the bidding process to raze the buildings. Again, Van Brimmer spoke up, asking if they razed it what parts would be demolished, since some of the buildings were repaired now while others weren’t. Kipper stated the bids she’d requested were for complete demolition of the entire property to the ground. Wilborn asked the mayor what the council’s options were. They could either grant an extension or move forward with the process, he said.
Time a factor
Now, it was time for Robin Linsner to speak up. She stated her concerns if the council extended the deadline only another 60 days, as weather could become a factor. Her concern was echoed by Kevin Linsner.
Sekavec also noted the price of salvage was low at this time, and he could understand the family’s reluctance at getting rid of some of the salvage vehicles at this time, but surely they could be pulled back into the building out of the weather so they would not be a nuisance. The Linsners nodded in agreement. Van Brimmer suggested in two months, the cars could be moved, the front of the building could be pained, and the open windows could be covered for certain. Where they go from there would be up to the family, and Sekavec reiterated that some hard, dedicated work needed to happen.
Finally, Sekavec moved that the family be granted an additional 60 days, with the stipulation that they report back to the council with photos at the Oct. 26 meeting. Van Brimmer seconded and all but Smith offered their approval. The Linsner family thanked them for their consideration.
After the meeting adjourned, Smith commented that she feels the Linsner’s have been given enough time, and she’s tired of all the excuses. She wants to see serious progress made on the cleanup, rather than the piecemeal efforts that the family has made. And the Linsner’s aren’t the only people she thinks need to clean up their act.
“What we’re trying to do here is clean up the community and make it a nice place to live.” she said. “How are we supposed to attract new people to town if they have to move next to people who allow their homes to become junky and run down?” Smith also stated that she personally lives next to one such property, and is continuously frustrated with the minimal efforts at clean up she sees with various properties around the city.