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 Carthage Town Council Ready to Enforce Ordinance on Local Unsafe Buildings

November 28, 2007 - More than half a year after the Carthage Town Council passed an unsafe building ordinance, efforts to enforce the local law are getting underway.

At the council's November 19 meeting, Jack Harmon, a building inspector from Rushville that the town is employing on a part-time basis, provided an update on six properties in town. As Harmon began to go down the list of properties, it was revealed that two council members had been cited for violating the ordinance.

Discussing the property at 8 N. Main St., which was cited for unfinished property improvements, Harman said he had spoken to the owner. Council member Bill Armstrong promptly identified himself as owner of that property.

Several minutes later, Armstrong said that he would not be able to put vinyl siding on his house until spring. Until then, he said "house wrap" had been put up to protect the structure from the elements.

"It's an unsafe building ordinance, not an un-pretty ordinance," Armstrong said.

Harmon said state law, however, which is incorporated into the town's ordinance, does take into account a building's appearance, in addition to safety concerns. "There's property maintenance issues as well," he said, explaining that this is to protect property values.

"My job is to work at the direction of the board … but my job is to enforce the law," Harmon told council members. "And when I do that, it's without regard to who the (property) owner is."

Another council member who's property ended up on Harmon's list was Tim Wehr. "It's mine," Wehr said of the property at 101 S. Main St., which was cited for an unstable garage roof and debris on an empty lot. "I'll do what I'm supposed to do."

Harmon told the council that he's looking for property owners to present an action plan that will ultimately be deemed acceptable by the council. "You have to be reasonable about the whole thing," he said. "I would prefer to use a human approach and work out some reasonable plan."

Clerk-Treasurer Linda McMahan said owners of a property at 6 W. Mill St. had sent a letter saying they would tear down an offending structure in December. Harmon said he'd had no response from owners of properties at 202 E. First St. and 309 E. Fifth St.

The council voted to take a property where the owner had had no record of water consumption for the past several months off the list. The property owner, who Armstrong said bathes and does his laundry elsewhere, is, apparently still hooked up to the town's system and paying a monthly bill for minimum usage.

An offending structure at 718 N. Main St. had been demolished prior to last week's meeting. The Carthage Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to that location later that evening to deal with fires set to get rid of building materials and rubbish.


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