Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Environmental Court facing full docket for February 2015

According to Interim County Attorney Tom Seeley, more than 30 cases are already scheduled through the end of February for Environmental Court.
Seeley distributed a list of citations issued during the last two months and the corresponding court dates during the Jan. 13 meeting of the Health Education and Welfare Committee.
“One of the things we have to keep in mind is it’s better for the owners to handle the problems,” he said, as opposed to taking them to court.
“It’s a carrot-stick effort, and if the administration thinks the property owner is making a good faith effort, we may give an extension,” he said.
Seeley said time is designated for Environmental Court on two Fridays each month, and the county is trying to hear 10 cases each day.
In an attempt to encourage cooperation, he meets with the offenders beforehand to discuss the possibility of fines being waived if they will clean up the property, though the offenders would be responsible for court costs.
Commissioner Joe Grandy asked if those court costs are being paid.
“Yes, because they’re being used as a carrot,” Seeley answered. “If you pay, you could keep the fines from going to $50 per day.”There is little leeway for the owner once the cleanup and corresponding fines become court-ordered, he added.
Commissioner Todd Hensley said it would be helpful to know how much money is being recouped by the county, but Seeley said that comes down to a collection issues.
“Often owners are the poorest of the poor, and our only recourse is to put a lien against the property,” he said. “It’s not like a speeding ticket that is turned over to the state and the person’s driver’s license is taken.”
Seeley said there is not a large cost to place liens, which have a 10-year expiration date, and there is the chance the property could be sold later.
Abandoned houses and foreclosures are a challenge when it comes to issuing notices, according to Seeley. “Abandoned houses are especially challenging because the county can face potential liability if the structure is demolished, which has to have a court order,” he said.
Grandy said the commission needs to have some kind of idea regarding revenue to expect from the Environmental Court for the budget, but Seeley cautioned the success of the program can’t be judged by the amount of money collected.