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Winnebago talking trash in court

By Staff | Sep 29, 2008

Keep your yard in orderly fashion, otherwise you might end up in court.

That’s the message Winnebago officials are sending to local residents.

In May, the Police Department sent out some 30 letters to homeowners for failing to keep their property free of public health and safety hazards.

“We have two right now that are scheduled for court. I have a couple more that aren’t there yet, but we’re working on it,” says Police Chief Bob Toland.

The city was divided into four sections and those violating the city’s “public nuisance” ordinance were identified.

Toland says the letter gave residents 10 days to respond. When it was possible, he says, property owners were contacted personally.

The police chief says going to court is the city’s last resort.

“Giving some people a fine really doesn’t take care of it,” says Toland.

Last year, the council approved a schedule of “administrative fines” for those violating city ordinances.

The penalty for a public nuisance offense is $60, while storage of junk vehicles is a $50 fine.

The two property owners were issued a citation Sept. 2 for violating part of the state’s public nuisance law, which is a misdemeanor.

The portion reads:

…maintains or permits a condition which unreasonably annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, morals, comfort, or repose of any considerable number of members of the public.

Going before a judge does have some advantages.

A deadline to comply with a clean-up order may be issued, as well as a fine. If a property owner fails to meet requirements determined by the court, city crews can do the clean-up and legally remove any items necessary.

Toland says getting some residents to rid their property of junk or keeping it properly maintained isn’t a new problem.

He says his department has dealt with some people for several years and still they have done nothing.

“We want to work with people and help them out. As long as they are making an effort, we’ll work with them,” he says.

Toland says if city crews do clean-up work the cost will be assessed on the the owner’s property tax statement.