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Northwest Salmon



Webster building code enforecement

issues still lingering

by Emre K.Erku

Some might say it was right for Webster officials to hire veteran building code enforcer Mike Olson at $45 an hour.

Others, not so much.

Last year, Olson, who was Aberdeen’s code enforcer for some time, put in about 250 hours of confronting city residents regarding their possible infractions. It could have been abandoned furniture, decaying vegetation and structures, visible vermin, or all of the above. Whatever the foul, violators were notified and if compliance was neglected the threat of possible legal action emerged. Of the 100 properties originally sought out, just 15 carried over into this year.

“I think we made significant progress in the past year,” said Olson. “Many properties have rid of their junk; appliances; other waste materials that have built in neighbor areas.”

According to Olson, violations were predominantly caused by building maintenance infractions – such as siding issues – and junkyard accumulation. Of course, health concerns certainly aligned with the threat of property devaluation.

“We focus on the health, safety and welfare,” said Olson of the city’s enforcement efforts.

“These efforts help protect and enhance property value, and encourage new people to seek these communities for their home or business.”

For most residents, Olson noted, it wasn’t more than a friendly reminder to tidy up; however, some parties weren’t as complaint.

“Some folks have some circumstances in their family or just may require more time,” said Olson. “We’re always willing to give more time.”

Of these 15 carryovers, some are senior citizens. Of which, Webster residents Nancy and Byron Bain were confronted about their property last year. Old mowers, snowblowers and other various parts on the property were concluded to be a nuisance. Inevitably, they were a blip on Olson’s radar.

“First, they gave us until the end of April,” said Nancy. “Well, we had winter... that extra time didn’t help. We’ve been working pretty hard at it, but it takes a lot of time.”

According to Nancy, her husband was a carpenter by trade most of his life. About 10 years ago, Byron was injured on the job and his physical abilities may have dwindled.

“They’re aware that he’s not healthy...” said Nancy. “I hope they realize there was nothing we could do – in the winter – with everything outside. We just ask that they be more considerate.”

If the Bains are allotted more time per next week’s monthly city council meeting, Nancy says she hopes her grandchildren will come help them rid the items.

Another violator, Arnie Knebel, who owns a four stall garage near the south side of Webster, was cited for having excessive timber and scrap metal. Knebel, who’s in decent health at his age, used the recent citywide clean-up to his advantage.

“Last Saturday, I got Josh’s (Gaikowski) skid steer and I put it out (items) for the city to pick up,” said Knebel. “It looks nice there now. I might even be able to mow around there this summer.”

Knebel said that Olson gave him until May to clean up the mess, and Knebel, who served in the military, quickly complied without much fuss.

“I have no complaints about that guy (Olson),” said Knebel. “You can see a work-in-progress around town. It gave us a reason to clean up. I’m happy about it.”

Obviously, presenting possible legal ultimatums to law-abiding citizens can be a tough job. A code enforcer may run into all kinds of animosity, especially knowing the fact that some of these citizens are understandably incapable of solving the situation. So for Webster Mayor Mike Grosek, having Olson around makes things easier.

“Having an outside individual... it’s a little more easy for him to confront people. He treats everybody the same, which is good,” said Grosek. “He’s got a good approach with them and uses common sense. He thrives on treat them with respect. But it’s not a glamorous job.”

Before Olson was hired, Grosek revealed that nothing was ever really enforced.

“Some of those things did not get enforced the way we should have,” said Grosek. “I think some just don’t understand that they’re not in compliance with the ordinances that exist. They just don’t realize it.”

Per the city nuisance ordinance, it states “It shall be unlawful for any person owning, leasing, occupying, or having charge and/or possession of any buildings or premises in the city to keep or maintain such buildings or premises in a manner, which is at variance with, and inferior to the level or maintenance of surrounding properties.”

Essentially, this means if the grass is greener on the other side, yours too must be as green.

“You see a neighbor cleaning up their yard, it’s contagious after that,” said Grosek.

Thus far this season, the city of Webster has encountered 13 additional cases, which has Olson’s work cut out ahead of him. This year, Olson’s pay was raised to $50 an hour

“He’s paid to do it,” said Nancy. “I suppose he has to do it...”

Olson also services Roslyn, Bristol and parts of Roberts County.


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