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Neighborhood’s persistence pays off
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By Carol McIntire
Cleanup began last week at a Mechanicstown home and residents in the area were glad to see a dumpster and cleanup crew at the site but are unhappy it took so long to remedy what they called “a disgusting situation.”
Zulema Dewitz, her mother, Rose Ann Newbold, and neighbors began attempting to get a property, owned by Beverly Snider and located at 3081 Apollo Rd. NE, Mechanicstown, (just off SR 39 in the tightly knit community of Mechanicstown) cleaned up in January 2022.
“There is trash everywhere,” Dewitz told The Messenger during a phone call early in 2023.
“It’s outside the house, inside the house and down behind where there is a camper trailer.”
Not only was there trash piled inside and outside the home and trailer, but she also claimed a neighbor found a dead dog in a wagon (covered by a blanket) near the camper trailer (and provided a photo as proof) and five-gallon buckets of human feces were located on the property.
Neighbors contacted the Carroll County General Health District about the situation in January 2022 hoping for immediate results.
However, it wasn’t as simple as ordering the two residents, David Haag, Snider’s son, and his friend, Kevin Ray, to clean up the property. Snider was no longer living in the home and had a Carrollton address.
The health department was required to follow the proper channels and made a visit to the property in February 2022 where officials made contact with Haag and Ray. Court records state Haag and Ray said trash service would be in place within two weeks and all trash would be cleaned up.
Additional visits by health department officials took place March 1 and March 4. It was reported “little or no significant progress had been made.”
Dewitz said seven local residents filed nuisance complaints with the health department in March, which led to the issuance of a letter to the residents citing Ohio Revised Code sections regarding open dumping. The occupants were given 10 days to clean up the property.
One of the complaints was filed by Thomas Barnett, who lives nearby. His complaint noted the presence of human waste on the property, saying the situation was “causing a plague of rodents (rats) and air pollution throughout the neighborhood.” He added on his complaint the septic system at the home was updated via a grant offered through the county.
On the health department’s next visit, officials observed a dumpster located on the property and documented that “some progress had been made in general cleanup, but significant amounts of trash and solid waste still remained on the property.”
A second notice was sent to the occupants in mid-April and the county board of health passed a resolution to order an abatement of the public health nuisance within 30 days.
Without any results, a criminal complaint was filed in Carroll County Municipal Court July 7 against Snider and Haag. Snider entered a no-contest plea to the misdemeanor charge and was fined $150, which was suspended on condition she assist the health department with the cleanup. Haag entered a guilty plea and was fined $150, which was also suspended on condition he assist the health department with the cleanup.
PNC Bank filed a foreclosure complaint against Snider and occupants of the home July 13, 2022, and was awarded default judgment for $10,035,51 plus a deferred amount of $957.53 Nov. 2 and an order to sell the property was issued.
The sale was to take place Jan. 10, 2023.
Dec. 13, 2022, the order of sale was vacated and the foreclosure was dismissed. The court order stated the parties entered into a forbearance agreement.
According to online website, Investopedia, “a mortgage forbearance agreement is an agreement made between a mortgage and a delinquent borrower. In this agreement, a lender agrees not to exercise its legal right to foreclose on a mortgage, and the borrower agrees to a mortgage plan that will—over a certain time period—bring the borrower current on their payments.”
Forbearance agreements became popular during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Neighbors became increasingly unhappy during this time as nothing occurred to clean up the property and Ray continued to live in the camper trailer with no electric and no bathroom facilities or porta jon on the property.
“This has been going on for several years,” said Jeff Simmons, who owns the property adjacent to the site. “This is a disgrace to Mechanicstown.” Simmons said he would like to purchase the property, dispose of the camper trailer and tear the house down.
Prosecuting Attorney Steven D. Barnett filed a lawsuit on behalf of the board of health April 4, 2023, in Common Pleas Court, against Snider, Haag and Ray asking the court to declare the property a public nuisance and order the defendants to clean up the property.
None of the defendants responded to the lawsuit and Judge Michael V. Repella, II declared the property a public nuisance, ordered all the defendants are prohibited from depositing trash, debris, solid waste or noxious materials on the property.
He also granted the health district reasonable access to enter the property or use a contractor to remove and dispose of the debris, waste, etc. on the property.
All cost incurred by the cleanup will be placed on the real estate taxes of the property and become a lien.
Clean-up crews from ServPro were on hand last week at the site and cleaned up the outside of the home and camper trailer, but not the inside of the home or camper. Health department officials said a separate crew will clean up the inside of the home and camper.
The two men on site Friday told The Messenger this was the worst site they had cleaned up during their employment with the company. They reported finding five-gallon buckets of feces inside the home and bags of trash everywhere. They also cleaned up gun casings near the camper trailer.
Simmons said Friday two dead cats were located in the second story of the home and the home was filled with dog and cat feces. With the front door open Friday, there was a clear view of the inside of the home which looked as if it would have been almost impossible to navigate through the trash from one room to another.
“There’s a second dead dog on the property, they just haven’t found it yet,” Simmons added.
Carroll County Health Commissioner Kelly Morris offered an explanation for the extended period of time to took to remedy the situation.
The Carroll County General Health District has been working with the property owner and tenants since January 2022 to clean up the property to abate the public health nuisance the solid waste has been causing,” she said. “Unfortunately, this public health nuisance had to go to the board of health for orders and then to the court of common pleas in order for the judge to provide us authorization to abate the nuisance. This is an extreme circumstance; most public health nuisance complaints are remedied without board of health or court involvement.”
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