Tax Dollars Spent At Cost Of Franklin County Violation Of City Weed Ordinance

Pictured is the property owned by Franklin County when it was finally cut at the cost of tax payers on June 18th.

By Kyle Quick

New Haven, Mo. - "Uncharted waters" was one phrase Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer used as a reason why the county has not maintained a piece of property (805 Olive Street) they seized after back taxes had not been paid.

As the owner of 805 Olive Street, Franklin County along with all property owners are responsible for adhering to all applicable city ordinances and in this case the county is in violation of the city's weed ordinance.

Up until June 18th when city tax dollars were used, grass and weeds had grown over four feet tall, posing a health hazard to neighboring residence as the property became infested with ticks, mosquitoes, and poison ivy.

A neighboring residence directly behind the property told QuickNewsNow that he came down with a severe case of poison ivy after attempting to cut areas that had grown onto his property.  He also said, "We can't even sit in our backyard with out being attacked by mosquitoes."

We spoke with Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer this past Wednesday, June 26th in an attempt to find out what the commission's plains were to prevent New Haven tax dollars from being waisted unnecessarily.

Griesheimer said, "I know if I was next-door neighbor I wouldn't be happy about it either.  Again we want to be good stewards to our constituents but again it's not the service that we provide."

Griesheimer said, "To be honest with you we've never encountered this before, ok.  We've never had a request like this before.  So we don't know what to do."

"It isn't like we just bought the property and are going to develop it, we obtained it unfortunately through back taxes and really we do not have the means to take care of this kind of stuff."

We asked why they couldn't hire someone to cut it?

Griesheimer said, "Well uh, I don't know.  Number one it's pretty difficult for me when we don't have the money to give raises to our employees to have somebody go out and cut a little lot up here. (805 Olive Street)  I'm not exactly real thrilled about that either."

The business who cut the lot for the city charged them less than $100.

Griesheimer admitted he had been aware of this issue for "a month or two" before the City of New Haven was forced cut the property themselves.  Griesheimer said that he had their Highway Department take a look at the lot, hoping they would be able to cut the property with the equipment they have.

We confirmed this with city hall officials who said a member of Franklin County's Highway Department had stopped in, however told the city they would make sure it was cut.

However, Griesheimer said the highway department told him that their equipment would do more damage than it was worth by using their brush hog.

When we asked Griesheimer about the property becoming a health hazard to neighboring homeowners and he said, "It would be a health concern if we had the same situation there as we do in Whisper Valley, where you have a derelict house on it and needs to be torn down." ( Note there are no structures, just an open lot at 805 Olive Street.)

"Look at all the grief we occurred trying to do the right thing there.  There we had two structures that were not only health hazards but a safety hazard as well.  We came up with what I think was a good idea to lessen the taxpayers liability and we caught all kind of hell over that.  So there's no easy solution to this."

"I don't want to be a detriment to anybody and I don't want it to be a detriment to the neighboring properties either."

"I want to be a good steward and cooperate with the city of New Haven. I'm not saying we're not going to do it, but if you think we can just snap to it and go up there and cut it, logistically it's a little tougher than that."

We asked if there will be a solution when this issues arises again?  "We got to discuss that, the commission has to discuss about what we're going to do."

We asked if this was something that would be discussed amongst the commissioners?

"One of the commissioners will be on vacation next week but Monday we have a working session and I will bring it up then, but I'll have one commissioner gone at the same time too.  We are going to have to figure out how we're going to do this."

"Again it's not like we can snap and have someone go up there and cut it, we don't have anybody that can do that.  We have all the grounds guys here and logistically I don't know if we can do that.  I'll have to talk to our maintenance people to see what to do."

We asked if plans of discussing this issue was plained before we called and Griesheimer said, "Yea... on Monday I'll be talking with the other commissioner and our attorney to figure out a plan of action...yea."

"Again I understand this issue and I'm not trying to duck it, but you also have to understand we're not used to doing this.  This is a new ballgame for us to.  It's one thing if you're inside the city and this happens all the time, but when you're out here in the country and really don't have the equipment or the manpower to do it that's another thing.  We're going to decide how we are going to deal with these issues.  We are working in uncharted waters."

Commissioner Griesheimer reassured they are going to work with the city of New Haven, "But again I will reiterate for the third time this is new to us.  We got to figure out what to do.  There also has to be a little give and take."

The Police Department told us that per city ordinance the first letter was sent on May 9th to the title company who then informed the city the letter needed to be sent to the County Commissioners, giving notice they were in violation of the city's weed ordinance.

Since the city had to use tax dollars to have the grass cut, a lean has been placed on the property for violating city ordinance.

Prior to speaking with Griesheimer this past Wednesday, New Haven's City Attorney, Charles Hurth, III, had sent the county's attorney, Mark Vincent, a letter regarding this matter.  Vincent replied in a letter that was addressed to Hurth dated June 10 stating:

This is the first time in 23 years that I have received a notice regarding violation of city ordinances on property owned by the county acquired by virtue of the original owner failing to pay taxes. At this point in time, I have no knowledge whatsoever regarding the property but I will be glad to look into. Once I find out additional information. I will give you a call.

Mark S. Vincent

Commissioner Griesheimer provided us with a copy of the letter.  Click here to view the letter.

If you would like to express your concerns to Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer here is the the phone number where he can be reached at: (636) 583-6359 or (636) 583-6358.