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Ghent adopts budget, tackles nuisances

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By Sharon Graves

Planning amended budgets for the city and the sewer department of over $1 million was easier for Ghent City Commission than dealing with items of city pride such as rundown buildings, dogs running loose and unkempt properties.

The commission heard the first reading of two ordinances to amend budgets for the upcoming fiscal year for the city operations and the sewer division.  The second reading and final adoption will be heard at the next regular meeting Tuesday June 9.

The budget for the sewer system has expected revenues of $797,220 including carryover of $705,220 and the city operational budget has expected revenues of $220,548 showing carryover of $97,448 for fiscal year July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.

Expected expenditures for the sewer division are $71,450 that leaves a carryover of $725,850. The city has planned expenditures of $115,150 leaving a carryover of $105,398 for the fiscal year.    

The commission had many civic pride issues that frustrated them and have found difficult to address in the past and see little compliance currently.  

Former commissioner Charles Eaves came before the commission and stated there are at least 18 properties in the city that are in violation of the city’s nuisance ordinance. He presented pictures of high weeds and grass and vehicles left in yards and questioned why these problems continue.  

The old schoolhouse on U.S. Highway 42 was a topic of discussion for its deteriorating condition. Mayor Bill Mumphrey said that he believes there is a tree growing from the inside of the building. The grass at the schoolhouse was partially mowed as an answer to a letter sent from the city citing the nuisance ordinance.  “I want some satisfaction,” Mumphrey said. “There has to be some kind of an ordinance to enforce [the problems we have].”

In addition to the schoolhouse, the commission talked about bushes that block a stop sign, a trailer that is currently parked on city property without permission and other properties that have junk and cars on lots in the city as well as dogs that run loose and are a menace. City clerk Bulinda Willis said that one dog chased a woman into the city office.  

Last year, the commission had re-written their nuisance ordinance to adopt Carroll County’s nuisance ordinance because they would have a better chance of enforcement with county employees. Commissioner David Hendren, who serves as code enforcement officer, met with county solid waste management coordinator Mitchell Perkins to ride around Ghent looking at various properties that have complaints lodged against them.

Perkins explained in a telephone interview Monday, May 18 that he has no citing powers and can only investigate a complaint that has been submitted in writing to the Judge Executive’s office.  

Once he receives the written complaint then he investigates it and if he deems the complaint is valid, then he contacts the property owner, Perkins explained.  Sometimes Perkins said he must go through the property valuation office to determine who the current property owner is and then he notifies them that they have 30 days to address the complaint.  “Most of the time they do take care of the problem,” Perkins said.

“Some people make a complaint and they want you to take care of it yesterday,” he said.  Perkins went on to say that sometimes what is an eyesore to one person is another person’s way of making a living.  Everyone is entitled to make a living, but they are not entitled to have junk strewed everywhere on their property.

“I applaud the city of Ghent for taking pride in their town,” Perkins said.  

City attorney, Jason Baute explained that the county ordinance comes with criminal contempt penalties and that the city needs to file a complaint on those properties that are not in compliance. He also explained to the commission that this is not free and they would have to pay filing and attorney fees for every case they prosecuted.  

“It’s not like we haven’t made progress because we have,” Hendren said.  But he also admitted there wasn’t enough progress and it wasn’t continuous.

No definitive action was taken on the issues concerning the conditions of properties in the city limits of Ghent, but the commission agreed to continue to work towards a solution.

In other business

• Willis advised the commission that the Property Valuation Administration office would no longer be printing the Ghent tax bills and she recommended having the Carroll County Sheriff’s office to print and collect the local tax as other communities do.  “We have till July to get this done,” Willis said.  The item was tabled so the commission could get more information.  

• May 30 will be cleanup day in Ghent and there will be dumpsters available for people to get rid of junk and rubbish, according to Willis.

• Ghent city commission and the mayor approved a raise for themselves and the city clerk. It will be finalized at the June meeting.