The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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December 12, 2012

GOTL tears down deplorable house trailer

GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE — After years of neglect, numerous zoning code violations and open raw sewage, the house trailer at 4808 Linda Drive was torn down by court order on Monday.

“We have had numerous, numerous complaints about this property and continued code violations here,” Village Police Chief Tim Bruckman said.

Several months ago, the village obtained court permission to tear down the house trailer, owned by Shirley Mitchell of Geneva Township, Geneva-on-the-Lake administrator Jim Hockaday said.

“This was a court enforced demolition,” he said, noting that the home and property, which was inhabited by Mitchell’s son, had structural and sanitary issues and a lien for $3,000 in owed property taxes.

Hockaday said Mitchell’s son had an issue with the sewer line from the property last winter, so he ran an above-ground line from the trailer.

“That, of course, froze and burst and caused unsanitary conditions in the neighborhood,” he said.

Mitchell was made aware of the issue in February and the Ashtabula County Health Department became involved, Hockaday said.

The property has been vacant since early spring, Hockaday said.

“We are all set to take this to court, but just prior to the final hearing in July, (Mitchell) agreed to the demolition of the trailer,” he said.

On top of the $3,000 in owed taxes, $1,500 in legal costs to the village and the cost of multiple maintenance code violations, the village has incurred the $2,800 cost of demolishing the house trailer, Hockaday confirmed, for a total cost of about $7,000 in village funds and resources.

Hockaday said the village won’t likely see that money again.

“We will certainly send (Mitchell) a bill, but if that isn’t paid, we will add the cost to her $3,000 tax bill. It may take a year, but the property will likely go into tax foreclosure and be auctioned. If no one purchases the land over two auctions, the village is obligated to acquire the property,” he said. “This process, given the need for due process, will likely take one to two years.

But, in the end, the cost of solving the problem was worth the expense, Hockaday said.

“The property was a health concern,” he said. “(Mitchell’s son) made multiple structural alterations to the building and with the broken sewer line and other issues, it was not safe for human habitation.”

“At the end of the day, this wasn’t about the money. This is about not expending more taxpayer dollars for code enforcement, court costs and fees and staff resources. It was costing taxpayers far more than the $2,800 we paid to tear this down,” he said.

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