By Mark Waite
It’s been seven years since three Pahrump properties were declared nuisances by Nye County commissioners, but code compliance officer George Bernath said they still haven’t been cleaned up yet.
After property owners were given some extensions, the code compliance complaints went into limbo in 2006-2007, Bernath told commissioners Monday.
In the meantime, there was a change in code compliance officers.
When Bernath took over the position in 2010, he reviewed some of the unresolved cases and the three came up. Code compliance inspected the properties again and sent out notices.
Bernath said code compliance sent out complaints to former District Attorney Bob Beckett and current DA Brian Kunzi who kicked them back to code compliance.
“In January we issued abatement notices to all three properties, within 24 hours all three property owners came to us and asked to be able to clean up their properties themselves rather than have the county come in. All three began making progress,” Bernath said.
All three property owners are in dire financial straits, he said.
But during a reinspection last Friday, Bernath said a property at 561 Irene Street was in worse condition. He said the county is considering issuing a violation for moving in another manufactured home on the property without a permit, to replace one that burned over the Christmas holiday.
“The cleanup of the property basically stopped progressing from the April inspection I did until last Friday,” Bernath said.
The first notice of violation was issued to the previous property owner, Emily Ching, on Nov. 5, 2003 after more than one residence was hooked up to the septic system. That was followed by a notice Jan. 14, 2005 over abandoned, unregistered, wrecked or dismantled junked cars. The property was sold to Rick Flores and another notice sent out May 19, 2005. Commissioners declared it a public nuisance Sept. 20, 2005 and Flores was given 30 days to remove the nuisances, except for the cars, which would be surveyed to see if they were classic cars.
Former code compliance officer Barbara Taylor filed a memo Dec. 8, 2005 stating Flores told her his home was stocked with ammunition and he would die on the property. A Dec. 30, 2005 memo said Flores told Taylor he had pipe bombs and would make a crater of his property. Despite this, Taylor told a deputy sheriff she didn’t want to press charges for intimidation of a public employee.
Over lunch on July 17, 2006, Flores threatened to shoot the new code compliance officer, Dick Johnson if he took any more photos of the property.
A property owner at 2420 McMurray Street made considerable progress since the abatement notice, Bernath said. But commissioners were surprised to hear it’s now a Nye County trust property. Bernath said the property owner is trying to pay up the delinquent taxes.
Commissioner Joni Eastley was concerned.
“I think under the law we have an obligation to clean it up if it’s a trust property. We’re liable for anything that happens on that property,” she said.
Commissioner Gary Hollis said he noticed the property owners are just taking equipment and junk cars and moving them to the back of the property. Bernath said when he began inspecting the site, the entire acre and a quarter was covered.
There is also a question how many families live on the property, Bernath said the property claims there is only one.
A notice of violation was first issued for the McMurray Driver property on Sept. 16, 2004, after code compliance received a report of trash, debris and junk. The county commission declared it a public nuisance Sept. 20, 2005.
The property owner made progress on cleaning it up, but the code compliance officer in October 2006 noted more mobile homes were being moved on the property. A rubbish fire ignited on Dec. 29, 2006 caused by a welder’s torch.
A report by Loreli Nolan from code compliance dated Aug. 3, 2010 noted there were several trailers and mobile homes, many stripped of the siding. Piles of wood debris, other material and several motor vehicles that appeared to be inoperable also littered the property.
Nolan observed some mobile home debris was overflowing into an adjacent lot. She noted screening around most of the property, made from mobile home siding, exceeded six feet and required a conditional use permit.
Property owners were told to remove debris by May 9, 2011 and proper screening installed by June 27, 2011, but neither occurred.
A memo from the district attorney’s office dated Dec. 12, 2011 stated they won’t be proceeding with criminal charges.
The best progress is being made by a property owner at 1660 W. Jornada St., Bernath said. Robert Smith’s widow Jeanette Smith has removed three dumpsters, has a metal dumpster on the site that’s full and have sold a lot of items. Smith informed Bernath she will be removing four or five cars this week.
The Smiths first received a notice of violation Aug. 8, 2004 for abandoned, unregistered, wrecked or dismantled junked cars. The Smiths said they intended to build a fence around the property and screen the material by January 2006, but it never got built.
The Smiths didn’t accept mail from the county at either their Pahrump address or a California address listed, and wouldn’t give the county their post office box. They had no trespassing signs on the property that limited hand delivery.
The Smiths were given eight months from June 18, 2006 to remove the vehicles, except any classic cars. Robert and Jeanette Smith then encountered medical problems.
Complaints were sent to former Nye County Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Ron Kent on Oct. 29, 2008 but Bernath said nothing happened.
The county only had $5,000 in the budget for code compliance abatement, not enough to construct a fence, the file showed. There was a threat by the county to attach a lien for the cost of the abatement on the property.
Commissioner Butch Borasky inquired about the home on the corner of Hacienda and Ranchita streets, that sank six years ago.
“That’s definitely a health and safety issue. I know there’s a makeshift fence around it but you can get in through it. I get calls on it all the time,” Borasky said.
Bernath said he continually gets calls from a couple of neighbors. The home is still owned by the same person as when it caved in, though the woman’s husband died, he said.
“They got a settlement from the insurance company for the damage from the collapse of the house, which is close to a million dollars, but most of that went to lawyer’s fees and medical bills. So they don’t have the money to tear it down. She wants to give the property to the county so the county would be stuck tearing it down,” Bernath said.
The county has exhausted its noticing process on that home, but Bernath said he’ll meet with the district attorney to discuss how to proceed declaring it a nuisance.
Speaking of the DA, Bernath said, “he is not willing to prosecute any more nuisances through the court system so we’re going to decide what procedures we in code compliance have to abide by.”
Code compliance can either request county commissioners declare the building a nuisance or ask people in the community to file a complaint, he said.