Connersville takes aim at people leaving trash in their yards

(WTHR Staff)
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CONNERSVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) — Downtown Connersville is clean, tidy and sprinkled with potted plants. But you needn't go far to see yards and porches piled up with all sorts of stuff as well as grass and weeds as high as the fire hydrants.

James Rogers is fed up with it.

"It's all over. If you drive around town you can see it everywhere," Rogers said while pointing to a house across the street where a mattress was lying on furniture on top of who knows what.

One resident even started a Facebook page, called "Connersville Indiana Refusal to Clean up Their Town." It includes a slew of pictures of littered yards.

Mayor Harold Gordon admits "it's a big problem."

Gordon said it tops the list of citizen complaints, even beating out potholes. Thing is, there is a nuisance ordinance on the books to address trashed out yards and high weeds and grass.

Asked about that, Gordon said, "I think it's just...we have not been enforcing it and people just got used to 'it's OK' and it's not OK."

And it's about to change. At Monday night's city council meeting, the mayor and fellow councilors said it was time to crack down.

After a 30-day grace period the city will begin enforcing the nuisance ordinance. That means, starting Oct. 17, the city's Ordinance Enforcer along with police officers will start issuing citations for "on-the-spot ordinance violations" with an emphasis on weeds, grass, tires, junk on porches and in yards and unlicensed junk vehicles.

A first offense carries a $50 fine with the property owner (home or business) given five business days to clean things up. And those who don't? That will be left to a judge

"It's not the $50 fine that hurts people. What's going to hurt them is when they don't clean it up and they're cited in court because they can charge up to $2,500 and make them clean it up," Gordon said.

One man who rents a house with a large pile of furniture beside it told us he knows it looks bad, knows he needs to get rid of it, but said he doesn't have access to a truck to haul it away. He was also concerned about the cost to do so.

The mayor said they're looking at ways to help people of limited means dispose of their junk... indicating the cost was a reason why the ordinance hadn't been fully enforced.

Rogers hopes the city follows through on its promise to make homeowners clean up their property.

"People when they drive through town and see trash and places all run down, they're not going to move here, not even want to be around here," he said.

The mayor agrees saying, "First impressions mean a lot." That's especially true when you're hoping to attract new businesses or families to your community.

The city is encouraging people to dispose of mattresses, appliances, old tires and other junk littering their yards and porches before Oct. 17 to avoid a citation.

Gordon said items can be taken to the Connersville Transfer Station which charges $7 to dispose of a mattress, $9 for a couch, $5 for a chair and $2 for a tire.

He said that's "a lot less than a $50" fine and potential court costs for getting cited.

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