Local residents who receive a trash nuisance notification now have less than half the time they previously were allotted to clean the mess up, according to Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner.
Previously, anyone receiving a trash nuisance notice from the Highland County Health Department had 30 days to fix the problem. If the problem wasn’t fixed in that time frame a second letter went out from the health department with an additional 30-day time frame. If no progress was made after the second notification, the case was sent to the Highland County Prosecutor’s Office.
Now a property owner will have just 20 days after notification to fix the problem. If no progress in made in that time frame, the case will go directly to the prosecutor’s office.
The new process went into effect immediately after the health department approved it during an Aug. 17 meeting.
“Most of the nuisance cases handled by the health department are trash related. Some of these cases can take 60 to 90 days before the health department is able to get them to the prosecutor, and sometimes even longer,” Warner said. “No neighbor wants to deal with the pests, smell, and other issues related to these nuisances for such a long time.”
Last year, Warner said, the health department completed 109 actual inspections of trash nuisance complaints and handled 267 other nuisance consultations.
“So, we’re out there quite a bit,” Warner said.
He said the health department was working with a Rocky Fork Lake area revitalization group that received a U.S. Justice Department grant when someone asked why it takes so long to get properties cleaned up after a nuisance complaint is filed. He said the health department looked at its time frames and decided it would be good to shorten them.
He also said a second letter from the health department doesn’t carry near as much weight as a letter from Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins, along with the possibility of a court appearance.
“We are dedicated to improving the health of our environment and the health of our community. Increasing our nuisance response time is an important part of that mission. Our real hope is that our residents will find ways to dispose of their trash properly in the first place,” said Kyle Arn, environmental health director at the Highland County Health Department.
Nuisances are investigated by the four sanitarians that work in the local health department’s environmental health division. The sanitarians also work with household sewage, private water, rabies inspections, food inspections, and a variety of other programs designed to keep the environment clean, and the community healthy, according to Warner.
He said that when a complaint is received a sanitarian goes to the scene to determine if 20 days is a sufficient amount of time to rectify the problem. He said that in the case of a large mess or one that’s been accumulating for several years, property owners may be given more than 20 days to clean things up.
The health department relies on the public or township trustees to inform it of trash nuisances, Warner said. He said that if someone from the public reports a nuisance, it has to be submitted in writing. He said that helps eliminate squabbles between neighbors.
But township trustees can just call a nuisance in and the health department will investigate.
To report trash, sewage, or other nuisance issues to the Highland County Health Department, call 937-393-1941 or visit its website at www.highlandcountyhealthdepartment.org for more information.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.