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Thread: Commission considers rural ordinance

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    May 2010

    Default Commission considers rural ordinance

    Commission considers rural ordinance

    By John Hacker,
    Carthage Free Press
    Updated Apr. 10, 2013 @ 8:21 am


    County officials would like the same authority that cities have to clean up public nuisances and health hazards, but they want the public's take on the issue before voting on a new county ordinance giving themselves that authority.

    The Jasper County Commissioners on Tuesday put out for the public's comments as a “public health hazards and public nuisance” ordinance that would allow the Jasper County Health Department to notify a property owner if they have what the county considers a public nuisance or health hazard on their property.

    The ordinance gives the county the authority to clean up the property if the owner doesn't respond or clean up the nuisance, then charge the property owner for the cleanup on his or her property tax bill.

    Norman Rouse, assistant Jasper County Prosecutor who acts as legal counsel to the commissioners, said the ordinance has no criminal teeth, just the authority to clean up the mess if the property owner doesn't respond.

    “(We need this) For the same reason why it's important for Joplin to have ordinances about junk and dismantled cars,” Rouse said. “It's a health issue, it's a safety issue and we've never had the authority before, so we're trying to take advantage of it now.”

    Rouse and Presiding Commissioner John Bartosh said a state statute that went into affect in August 2012 gave Jasper County, along with Newton and Dade counties in Southwest Missouri, the authority to enact nuisance abatement ordinances.

    “We've tried to take advantage of that, we've tried to pattern our nuisance ordinance after one in Boone County,” Rouse said. “It's basically to give us some enforcement power with respect to junk, dismantled cars, dismantled manufactured homes.”

    Rouse said rural Jasper County has a big problem with junked vehicles, abandoned mobile homes and other public nuisances.

    “One of the biggest problems is trashed trailers, trailers that have obviously been abandoned and because of the cost of getting rid of them, people don't,” he said. “They abandon them and kids get in them, dealers get in them, manufacturers get in them. It's a bad situation.”

    The commissioners all agreed about the need for an ordinance of some kind, but Bartosh and Honey said there are parts of the ordinance that still need work.

    “Here's one scenario that bothers me or scares me a little bit,” Bartosh said. “We have a lot of people that rebuild antique cars and they might have six or eight of them lined up waiting for parts or waiting for the opportunity to rebuild them. I don't want that to be a problem.”

    Page 2 of 2

    Bartosh said people need to read the ordinance and give the commissioners their feed back about how it should be implemented.

    “I would hope that next Tuesday there would be several people because it's been a complaint ever since I've been involved in county government,” Bartosh said. “We'd want to clean somebody's property up and do something about it and we couldn't. I'm hoping people show up here to give us their opinion.”

    Rouse said the definitions in the ordinance spell out the nuisances that would qualify for county action.

    “I want to make sure you understand, these definitions are the guidelines,” Rouse said. “When we say something is a health hazard or a public nuisance, a dismantled vehicle, any vehicle missing significant parts such as a hood, fender, cab, door or trunk lid, if you have that, it would be considered a public nuisance.”

    Rouse said the property owner can appeal to the Jasper County Commissioners directly for a final decision about whether or not they have a public nuisance and need to clean it up.

    “These definitions dictate the violations, what's why I encourage you to review them and make sure you understand them because ultimately you are the judge and jury on these violations,” Rouse said. “Once it goes through the process, they cite someone for some torn up trailer, they say clean it up and the person doesn't and it goes through all the stages, they have the right to appeal that to you, the commission, and they have a mini-hearing here and you decide.”


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  2. #2
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    May 2009

    Default Jasper County Commission approves nuisance ordinance

    Jasper County Commission approves nuisance ordinance

    By Debby Woodin
    May 1, 2013


    CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Jasper County commissioners gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that requires properties outside incorporated towns to be kept free of junk and health hazards.

    About 30 residents attended the final reading of the county ordinance.

    Several area residents have spoken out at recent meetings when the measure was discussed. Some have said that those who live in the country should be able to do as they please on their own land and that the ordinance was an attempt to adopt a zoning law, though voters had previously rejected a county zoning ballot question.

    The ordinance prohibits residents from keeping junked motor vehicles of all kinds, construction materials, broken furniture and appliances or trash in yards, or allowing weeds to become overgrown. Legal motor vehicle businesses and salvage yards are exempt from the prohibition on keeping inoperable or abandoned vehicles.

    Commissioner John Bartosh said earlier that the county wanted the authority to address “extreme problems” that have created complaints from neighbors and residents. The state passed a law last year that allowed the county to adopt an ordinance regulating public nuisances and health hazards.

    Under the ordinance, the county health department will determine whether a complaint constitutes a public nuisance or health hazard. If there is a finding that a nuisance exists, the property owner will be notified and will be given 15 days to achieve compliance with the law.

    Emergency measures are set out if immediate correction is needed to prevent a public health risk.

    Property owners have a right to appeal a correction notice issued by the health department or to request an extension. An appeal can be filed with the County Commission within 15 days after an order is received or before the deadline for correction, whichever is shorter.

    If the commission orders a cleanup by county workers or by a contractor, the measure allows the costs to be assessed in a special tax bill or as an addition to property taxes.


    COUNTY COMMISSION decisions regarding nuisances may be appealed to Jasper County Circuit Court.

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    Default Your View: Terrible injustice

    Your View: Terrible injustice

    By Chuck Jennings
    Special to The Globe
    May 21, 2013


    CARTHAGE, Mo. — I see this Jasper County nuisance law as a terrible injustice on the rights of the residents of Jasper County. I see this as a way for the haves to get their hands on the have-nots’ property for pennies on the dollar.

    The ones who are creating a health hazard can be handled by the Jasper County Health Department.

    But the idea of a cleanup program should be handled with respect for the property owner. I see the nuisance law as the wrong way to treat the residents of Jasper County — forcing cleanup and then adding the cost to property taxes. Jasper County commissioners, you should be ashamed.

    Chuck Jennings



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  4. #4
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    May 2009

    Default At least three dead in shooting at Pennsylvania township meeting; wounded gunman in custody

    At least three dead in shooting at Pennsylvania township meeting; wounded gunman in custody

    By M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News


    Three people were killed in a shooting Monday evening in Ross Township, Pa., state police said.

    A gunman opened fire at a town supervisors meeting Monday night in Pennsylvania, killing at least three people, before he was tackled by a local official and shot with his own weapon, authorities said. Three other people were wounded, including the gunman.

    Gunshots were reported at 7:20 p.m. ET at the regular monthly meeting of Ross Township supervisors in Monroe County, state police said at a news conference. Two people died at the scene, and a third died at a hospital, state police Capt. Edward Hoke said at a news conference.

    Hoke initially said a fourth person had died, but police later corrected that information to say the fourth person was in surgery. A sixth person sustained a grazing wound in the head and was reported in good condition, and a seventh suffered a heart attack from stress, Hoke said.

    Police identified the suspect as Rockne Warren Newell, 59, of Ross Township.

    He was released from a hospital and was in custody, Hoke said.

    The gunman approached the Municipal Building firing an unspecified long weapon into the windows, Hoke said. Fifteen to 18 members of the township's Supervisors Council and the public were present.

    The gunman entered the building, still firing, before he briefly left and returned with a handgun, police said. He was tackled by two people and restrained until police arrived.

    Chris Reber, a reporter for The Pocono Record who was attending the meeting, told his newspaper that Bernie Kozen, executive director of the township's West End Open Space Commission, tackled the gunman and turned his own gun on him.

    "I ran out after the first round of shooting. I dropped to the floor. That's what everyone did," Reber said.

    "It was automatic, like a string of firecrackers. That's what everyone said.

    "Then it stopped and I crawled out the side door."

    The Record reported in June that Newell has been in a dispute with the township for 18 years over the condition of his property. A Monroe County judge ordered him to vacate the property a year ago.

    "They have no right to kick me off my property," Newell told the newspaper in June. "They call my property an 'eyesore.' When I bought it, it was one of only three properties on the entire road that didn't have what they call 'junk.'"

    Azhar Fateh of NBC News contributed to this report.

    Last edited by Librarian; 08-05-2013 at 11:35 PM.
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  5. #5
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    May 2009

    Default Ross Township man fights to keep his land

    Ross Township man fights to keep his land

    Officials say Rockne Newell's property is an 'eyesore' and want to buy it at sheriff's sale

    By Andrew Scott
    Pocono Record Writer
    June 10, 2013


    Rockne Newell of Flyte Road, Ross Township, has been in a dispute with Ross Township.
    Part of Ross Township's dispute with Newell centers on this culvert he had built on the property.


    Ross Township hopes to buy a Flyte Road property, deemed an eyesore and up for sheriff's sale next month, to clean it up and remove what it calls a stream obstruction.

    Ruling in the township's favor, Monroe County Court last August ordered Rockne Newell, 59, to vacate and never again occupy or use the property, unless he has the proper permits to do so.

    The township's efforts to take over the land he's owned since 1990 are the latest development in an 18-year battle against Newell.

    "This is total (horse excrement)," said Newell, who has been living out of his 1984 Fiero and in abandoned buildings since being ordered to vacate.

    "They have no right to kick me off my property. They call my property an 'eyesore.' When I bought it, it was one of only three properties on the entire road that didn't have what they call 'junk.'"


    The unmown property now has the largest number of visibly cluttered items, including tires, cinderblocks and piles of lumber, on Flyte Road.

    Unemployed for years due to an injury from a crash, Newell said he collects and uses items other people throw away, which is cheaper than buying items in stores, and scraps and sells what he doesn't use.

    "I don't mow the property because I don't like lawns," said Newell, who has been struggling to pay property and school taxes after the mortgage was paid up years ago. "I prefer trees. Trees make the property less likely to flood when there's heavy rain."

    Culvert tussle

    The township's most immediate concern is with a culvert driveway Newell has installed on his property.

    In August 2011, Hurricane Irene's flooding washed away a footbridge over Newell's stream bed.

    Newell said the Federal Emergency Management Agency told him to replace the footbridge with a culvert driveway wide enough to allow emergency vehicle access to the property.

    He maintains that he was told by FEMA that he wouldn't need a permit to install this culvert driveway.

    "We're not a regulatory agency, so it's not up to us to issue any permits," said external affairs specialist Josie Pritchard in FEMA's Harrisburg office. "Issuing permits is the job of the Department of Environmental Protection or local municipality, depending on the specific project."

    Newell said he was having a contractor install the culvert in November 2011 when waterways conservation specialist Eric Weredyk of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission visited the property.

    Weredyk told him the culvert was illegally being installed without a permit and threatened to arrest the contractor if the contractor didn't cease work immediately, according to Newell.

    Newell said he told Weredyk that FEMA had said no permit was needed.

    Weredyk then let the contractor continue work, but directed the contractor to install the culvert six inches higher than what state Department of Environmental Protection permit regulations allow, Newell said.

    "Now, because of Weredyk's mistake, they're telling me the culvert blocks the stream's flow instead of letting it pass through," he said. "So now, they're not giving me a permit until that gets fixed, which I don't have the money to do. The contractor who was doing the work for me, when Weredyk came and screwed things up, is a friend of mine who knows I have no money and was doing me a favor."

    Permit comes first

    The Pocono Record tried contacting the Fish and Boat Commission to speak with Weredyk, but commission Press Secretary Eric Levis said the agency does not comment on pending court cases.

    "There are other issues with the culvert besides its height," said Victor Motts of the Monroe County Conservation District, which takes an interest when any construction on private or public property potentially affects waterways.

    "Until those issues are resolved, the DEP won't grant any permits, and the culvert will remain in violation."

    Newell invited the Pocono Record to his property to see his culvert. There appeared at the time to be no stream obstruction posed.

    Newell then showed a culvert he said had been installed on a neighbor's property. That culvert at the time had debris including a large piece of concrete in it and appeared to pose more of an obstruction.

    "Why am I being harassed for my culvert when this other one here is being totally ignored?" he asked.

    Township Secretary-Treasurer Doris Price said the township does not comment on pending court cases.

    "Mr. Newell was supposed to have gotten a DEP waterways and encroachment permit before even starting any construction on a stream project," said Community Relations Coordinator Colleen Connolly at DEP's Wilkes-Barre office. "He should not be doing the work first and then getting a permit. It doesn't work that way."

    Storage as dwelling?

    The township's other concerns with the property date back to shortly after Newell bought it from the previous owner in 1990.

    Newell got a township permit for a storage structure he built. He then used the structure both for storage and as his dwelling, but had not applied for a separate zoning permit or certificate of occupancy to use it as a dwelling.

    In 1995, after receiving complaints about the growing number of cluttered items on the property, the township took Newell to district court in efforts to force him to clean up and get a proper permit for the dwelling.

    Snydersville Magisterial District Judge JoLana Krawitz ruled in the township's favor.

    Newell appealed in county court, presenting the township's copy of his building permit application form. On the form's "building's intended use" line, someone had written "only" after "storage" so that it read "storage only."

    The township employee who handled the application testified she and Newell signed the form and that someone else afterward must have put that "only" there, without her or Newell's knowledge.

    Newell said this proved the township had not required him to get a separate permit to use the structure also as a dwelling.

    'It's wrong'

    Though Newell said Judge Peter O'Brien dismissed the case without prejudice and told the township to stop its harassment, township solicitor John Dunn said O'Brien told the township not to proceed any further unless it could prove Newell, in fact, was using the structure also as a dwelling.

    Newell said he wasn't doing so and living with a friend at that time.

    In 2009, after sheriff's deputies responded to another complaint about Newell's property and found human fecal matter in buckets there, the township determined he was improperly disposing of sewage with no septic system or permit for one.

    Newell said he cannot afford septic hookup fees, uses a composting toilet and has never put human fecal matter in anything other than that toilet, but the township still requires him to get a septic permit.

    "If I lose this property, I have nowhere else to go," Newell said. "What they're doing to me, what they've been doing to me for so long, it's wrong."


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  6. #6
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    May 2009

    Default Gunman kills three at Ross Township meeting

    Gunman kills three at Ross Township meeting

    By Chris Reber
    also by Andrew Scott
    Pocono Record Writers
    August 06, 2013


    Three people died Monday night when a gunman opened fire on a Ross Township municipal meeting, indiscriminately shooting into the building, authorities said.

    Eyewitnesses at the scene and state police identified the gunman as Rockne Newell, a self-proclaimed junk collector who has had a long-simmering feud with the township for keeping a junkyard on his property.

    Monday night state police were seeking a search warrant from a district judge for Newell's property, according to Trooper First Class Michael Sniscak.

    As of 11 p.m., however, there was a delay in returning to his property, authorities said. Fearful that his property might be booby-trapped, police said that they might bring in bomb-sniffing dogs as a precaution.

    A meeting attendee tackled Newell, who was shot with his own gun, according to witnesses.

    Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber, who was attending a Ross Township meeting for the first time, described hearing at least 10 shots. He described plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls. Witnesses would later tell him they saw pictures exploding away from the wall.

    Resident Betty Broad said, "First we jumped up. Patricia was pushing on me. I was starting to turn to see what was going on when someone took the big round table and protected us. Nothing can prepare you "»"

    Secretary Treasurer Doris Price said, "No one wanted to move. Everyone was hiding."

    Reber, who had escaped the meeting room to take cover behind an SUV in the parking lot, said the gunman emptied his first weapon and that he saw the gunman go to his car to retrieve a second weapon.

    Police said Monday night that Newell had two weapons.

    Newell was outside, firing into the meeting room, where about 15 people had gathered.

    "I had view of Rockne coming in. I saw Bernie (Kozen) struggling with him. Bernie got the gun and shot him in the leg twice," Ross Township Supervisor Tina Drake said.

    West End Park and Open Space Commission Executive Director Bernie Kozen was sitting on the side of the room.

    He described his actions to subdue the shooter: "When he came back in, he didn't see me. I guess he was hellbent on "»"

    His voice trailed off.

    "I was working on Dave Fleetwood and he walked by me into the meeting room, I guess to shoot more people," Kozen said. "That's when I came up behind him and wrestled the gun from him with the help of Mr. Kresh."

    Drake said Kresh helped to hold the shooter down. She said she was behind Solicitor John Dunn, two women and three men.

    Cleoria Campodonico was also at the meeting.

    "I'll never get those images out of my head. Those poor, innocent people," she said. "David Fleetwood pushed me out of the way and got shot twice in the belly."

    Township supervisor Howard Beers' daughter, Alissa Rutt, got a call from her dad.
    He said, "Just listen to what I have to say. No matter what you hear, I'm ok."

    She then called her sister, who was on her way to the scene. Her girlfriends had gotten news alerts on their cell phones. She spotted her dad and was allowed past the barricade. They hugged each other.

    The identities of the victims was not available at 11 p.m. Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen described the fatalities as three men. Two were dead on the scene and one died after being taken by a medical helicopter, Allen said.

    One remained in surgery at 11:30 p.m., according to state police.

    The man identified by witnesses and police as the gunman — Rockne Newell — has had a long-running feud with the township.

    He got a building permit from the township to have a storage structure on the property, but then built a dwelling without first getting a zoning permit or certificate of occupancy from the township.

    Over the years, authorities have responded to Newell's property as a result of neighbor complaints and on one occasion in 2009 found human fecal matter in buckets there, according to previous reports in the Pocono Record. The township determined he was improperly disposing of sewage with no septic system or permit for one.

    In a previous article, Newell said he couldn't afford septic hookup fees.

    "If I lose this property, I have nowhere else to go," Newell told the Pocono Record in June. "What they're doing to me, what they've been doing to me for so long, it's wrong."

    The outbreak of violence in this West End Monroe County community stands in stark contrast to its quiet, rural character. The meeting was winding down at 7:23 p.m. when the shooting broke out.

    Witnesses described a scene of carnage and chaos following the shooting at the Anchorage Road building.

    "There were real heroes here," Reber said. "People who did not consider their own lives in protecting others."

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