In other business, the commission approved amendments to the Noxious Weed and Solid Waste Department 2012 operating budgets.
During a budget hearing held prior to the agenda meeting, Barton County Finance Office Jessica Wilson told the commission that the change in budget authority was needed due to greater-than-anticipated revenue. The two departments wanted the authority to spend the excess if necessary.
Noxious Weed had $40,000 extra and Solid Waste, which includes the Barton County Landfill, had $50,000. The weed department plans on using the funds to purchase about 1,500 gallons of chemicals this year to avoid paying a higher price next year. The landfill will use the money on repairs if necessary.
In another landfill-related matter, the commission learned that one of the facility’s Caterpillar bulldozer was recently overhauled by Foley Tractor at a cost of $182,460. However, landfill Manager Mark Witt said to replace the machine would have cost $650,000.
“It’s basically brand new,” Witt said.
Following a long-running battle with a Barton County land owner who refuses to clean his property, the Barton County Commission Monday morning voted to refer the case to the county attorney’s office.
However, the commissioners were dismayed that this was all they could legally do.
At issue is property at 40 NE 20 Rd. north east of Great Bend owned by Dean Sherman. It is located in a rural residential area.
“There is solid waste nearly everywhere,” said Environmental Manager Judy Goreham. “I’ve tried working with him and he’s done nothing.”
The last version of the county’s nuisance code was adopted in 2009. It allows the commission to abate nuisances, including inoperable vehicles, salvage material, garbage, weeds and other noxious vegetation. Further, to assure the continued relief from nuisances, the resolution offers a penalty system for violations.
But, a pending court case at the state level is calling a county’s authority to take such action into question. So, for now, County Administrator Richard Boeckman advised the commission to do the next best thing, bring in the attorney.
The only other option was to do nothing.
“The state ties our hands,” said commissioner Jennifer Schartz. She hates to see county residents complaining and getting the impression officials aren’t responsive.
The other commissioners said they also felt handicapped and disliked having to sue. None the less, it was all they could do.
The Sherman site was one of two discussed Monday. In response to a letter from Ora and Judy Folsom who live at 6 NE 20 Rd., the commission also addressed unkempt property owned by Robert Hertel next door to the Folsom home.
“His property contains massive quantities of old rotten wood, iron, washers, dryers, T.V. sets, 55-gallon drums, old Wal-Mart fixtures, a large underground gas station fuel tank, old cars, broken glass, lawn mowers, and much more,” Judy Folsom said, reading her letter to the commission. “A lot of it is stacked up at our backyard fence. Nice view.”
The Folsoms have lived at the address for 20 years. They attempted to sell the home at one time and were told by the real estate agent that the mess would hinder the sale.
She said they have “made every attempt” to contact local and state officials. “So far, no one is interested in our problem and it just continues to grow.”
Since Goreham hasn’t had the opportunity to exhaust her legal channels yet, she said she will bring the Hertel land before the commission Jan. 7 for further action.
However, “the nuisance code works,” Goreham said. Despite the to cases that came up Monday, she said most people take care of their properties when her office contacts them.