Photo by Eric Harrold/Fall River County Herald-Star
This property at 601 4th Avenue in Edgemont has been at topic at Edgemont City Council for several months and continues to be an issue for neighbors.
Residents say not enough being done about several properties which they feel are in violation
By Eric Harrold
EDGEMONT – In what appears to be the latest chapter in an ongoing issue with conditions at the residence at 601 4th Avenue in Edgemont, nearby residents are frustrated with what they perceive to be a lack of effort on the city’s part to address the trash and other aspects of its appearance that they claim is a violation of the city’s nuisance law.
They claim that accumulating garbage and waste is spilling over from the yard of the residence into the alley. Trash bags are being torn into by animals, releasing the contents which are further spread by the wind onto adjacent properties. The neighbors are concerned that when warmer weather arrives, the increased temperatures will cause odor problems, bringing even more animals to tear into the accumulating garbage bags. Furthermore, some of the garbage is thought to be hazardous because diabetic disposable waste is suspected to be among the contents. A pickup truck parked on the street is said to have been sitting there for over a year.
The ownership of the property in question is listed as John S. Mower in care of Deborah Harrington, according to the Fall River County Register of Deeds office. But in addition to this property on 4th Avenue, the residents expressed concern about a number of other unidentified properties throughout the town which they feel also violate nuisance ordinances and are not being addressed.
“Nothing is being done about many properties because no one is complaining about them,” said Teresa Schumacher.
Mary Kellogg added, “More people are complaining about it, but nothing gets done, so people stop calling eventually.”
The three residents, including one who filed a complaint as recently as two weeks ago, insist that they are tired of getting the same results from city officials.
“How much patience are we supposed to have?” asked Mary Kellogg.
According to Teresa Schumacher, the first complaint was filed more than six years ago. She blames conditions at the 601 4th Avenue residence for the failure of her property to sell when she previously had it listed.
“When it gets brought up at city council meetings, it usually just gets tabled until the next meeting,” grumbled another resident, William Wagoner.
“Who wants to live across the street from a landfill?” asked Kellogg. “We’re tired of hearing ‘due process’ and we’re tired of being told to hire lawyers when the city refuses to enforce its ordinances. We’re told to have patience until the new code enforcer is on board and on duty.”
The complaining residents insist they have tried peacefully to persuade the occupants of the residence to consider the conditions and be respectful toward others but they are often met with hostile reactions to include threats and cursing.
“I have to control my temper,” says William Wagoner. “When I go over there I want to get confrontational.”
City officials, such as city council member Robert Worden, are all too familiar with what comes across with misplaced frustration on the part of residents who live next to properties where trash and clutter seem to accumulate.
“We’ve gone to court numerous times, I’d say about four in total,” Worden said during an interview prior to the city council meeting. “The city attorney advises the council on such matters and tells us how far we can go on such matters. So we’re kind of at a standstill. We have to follow the law or else the council, the mayor, and the city can be sued.”
“Legally, what can you do about it?” asks council member Roger Horton in a separate interview. “We’ve had a deputy pay a visit several times and the city attorney has looked into it. We’re kind of at a standstill at this point. We’re using every legal action that we can. We have to stay within the limits of the law or face liability and the possibility of being sued.”
Council member John Sturgis echoed these sentiments during the most recent city council meeting on Tuesday evening. “From a city standpoint, we’ve already spent $9,000 in city revenue on this one case. Its gone on for a long time and the trash has built up again,” he said.
Mary Kellogg pointed out that there had been two court cases in the last two years, the first resulting in an injunction being issued that allowed the city to enter the property and remove trash at no cost to the owner.
In the second case, she said, the court ordered the occupant to pay $50 each month so that the city could re-coup clean-up costs. Kellogg acknowledges that city workers removed more than 63,000 pounds of garbage in December of 2018.
Court documents acquired through City Attorney Lance Russell show that Ms. Harrington was served with a summons and a petition for revocation for suspended sentence. She is scheduled to appear on March 18 in the 7th Circuit Judicial Court in Hot Springs. Another occupant of the residence, Surgee Johnson, plead guilty to a charge of maintain nuisance on private property on May 15, 2019, in the 7th Circuit Judicial Court in Hot Springs. As a condition of his sentence, Johnson was ordered to obey all law, be on good behavior, and clean up the residence at 601 4th Avenue. In December, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail for violation of a valid court order.
Some folks in fact see the entire opportunity for resolution as lying with a court decision on the matter. As council member Jason Shook stated, “We have no control over what the courts do.