Three homes in Mentone tagged “unsafe” by KCHD

Three homes in Mentone were tagged as being unsafe, instead of being condemned, by the Kosciusko Department of Health.

At the Mentone Town Council meeting, Councilman Tim Croy said Bill Baxter, environmental scientist with the Department of Health, tagged the houses at 405 N. Tucker St., 406 N. Tucker St. and 106 W. Maple St. as impaired structures and that they’re vacant and not maintained. They were tagged on April 19.

Croy said they were tagged as impaired structures because he was told it would be easier for the town to proceed to get things done.

Town attorney Andrew Grossnickle said he spoke with Baxter who said the reason the county goes the route of tagging houses as unsafe structures instead of condemning them in instances like Croy gave was because there’s no one living in the house. Baxter gave Grossnickle a bunch of information and said the town had authority there and “to use it.”

The first step the town would have to do is to pass an unsafe structure ordinance, he said. Grossnickle said he’d finalize an ordinance and he’d bring it to the Council. Grossnickle said the Council is going to have to designate a couple things, but after that is done, the town can proceed to send out notices. Grossnickle said the town has to give the property owner a chance to concede; if they don’t, Grossnickle says the town will have to get an appraisal of the property.

The ordinance will be modeled after the ordinance the county has. The county passed an unsafe structure ordinance that piggybacked off a state statute, Grossnickle said.

He said he can finalize an ordinance and get it to the Council.

Town Marshal Jim Eads asked if the houses will have to be retagged when the town passes the ordinance since the county has tagged them.

Grossnickle said he believed the next step would be to send the property owners notices and that the town will not have to go back and retag the houses as unsafe structures. He said what Baxter designated the three houses as is what is needed for the town to proceed to take care of the houses. What might change in that is if the condition of the house changes, which he doesn’t imagine would happen. Once the notices are sent out, it puts the responsibility on the property owners to bring the property back into compliance.

Croy asked about the house at 301 N. Walnut St. He said at some point, the county condemned that house and he asked Grossnickle if the Health Department could go back and retag that house as an unsafe structure instead since the condition of the house is the same as when it was condemned, if not worse, and there’s no one living there.

Grossnickle said that’s something to ask Baxter. If it is, then the town can add that to the list of properties to take care of.

Croy said he thought the town already had an unsafe ordinance, but when he was going through their ordinances, he couldn’t find it. Thinking he might be missing a page, he went to Bell Memorial Library to check their copy of the town’s ordinances and was told the library doesn’t know where their copy is. Grossnickle said he has a copy of the ordinances and will check to see if the town has one already.

Council President Jill Gross asked what it would take to digitalize the town’s ordinances.

Grossnickle asked if the town has a website. Croy said it would be nice and people would be able to find what they want to and print things off.

Councilwoman Shelley Krueger said there was a woman who was willing to put a website together for the town. Gross said she talked with her a couple weeks ago and she’d be willing to help build a website.

Eads said if the town gets their website, then it would be a step in the direction of the police department getting theirs.

Gross said the town would be able to do things with the website that would save the town money.

Grossnickle said the town would be able to post all the ordinances online so people wouldn’t have to go to Council members when needed.

“That’s my goal, if nothing else,” Gross said.

In other business, Utilities Supervisor Josh Shepherd told the Council the town will have to wait to work on a storm pipe the Council approved Shepherd to get quotes for during its April meeting.

The storm sewer is in an alley between Franklin and Wabash, south of Monroe and north of Jefferson. It is a 4-inch storm pipe the town has already made half a dozen repairs to. It is 315 feet of pipe and, during the April meeting, James Emans, civil engineer with Emans Engineering, suggested replacing it.

Wednesday, Shepherd said there is a NIPSCO gas line that runs through the alley. He said the gas line was known about, but it “kind of curves back,” noting it’s “really in the way.”

Shepherd said he is waiting to hear back from NIPSCO to see if they will move the gas line. He said they can’t get any quotes back because if NIPSCO doesn’t move the line, the cost to do the storm sewer project will be “tremendous” because the line will have to be worked around.