Georgetown resident Stephen Price, whose home on 167 Rucker Ave. has been condemned by the City of Georgetown, was granted a week’s extension to remove combustible materials during an injunction hearing before Circuit Court Judge Brian Privett Thursday afternoon.
The condemnation notice was served in late January, and on Feb. 7, a hearing was held that issued final orders, including that imminent dangers had to be removed from the home by 4 p.m. on Feb. 20. The judge’s decision gives him until close of business on March 1 to remove the imminent danger materials or the City of Georgetown will “abate the imminent danger by removing the combustible materials, which are sticks, kindling, straw, newspapers and other materials,” according to City Attorney Devon Golden.
Price’s argument is that he needed more time to remove the materials to a storage unit. He said during the hearing he does not want them sent to the landfill or recycle them as they have use and value to him.
Fire Marshal Tim Thompson said during inspection of the home, officials said the most pressing item is removing the fire hazards. He said there are newspapers stacked like bales of hay all over the structure, there is hay inside the home Price uses to compost feces, clothes were all over the place, sticks and kindling under the house and there is no electricity in the home so he uses candles.
“I have to look at it as not only a danger to Mr. Price, but also to my crew if they have to go into the structure in case of a fire,” Thompson said. “It is a huge concern how quickly a fire would spread, and also how dangerous it would be to get in and out of the home and property.”
Privett asked Price why he didn’t recycle the papers and other materials and if they have value to him.
“If I recycle the papers I won’t have them to reference for anything I need,” Price said, holding up a copy of a newspaper with stories on the landfill in northern Scott County. Privett said the library keeps copies of the News-Graphic, but Price said it is a several mile walk to the library and he is a pedestrian. Price said he uses the hay for his farming, old tires to repair shoes, plans to use aluminum cans to repair his roof and the wood for other projects he said he needs to do around his property.
Price argued that the city was going to dump all of that in the landfill which he opposes, but Thompson said the city offered to help take the recyclable items to the recycling center.
Price has several other lawsuits pending in the courts, including two before Privett.
“The difference from this action and the others you have filed is those question aesthetics,” Privett said. “You can’t use aesthetics when it comes to code enforcement. This is about your safety and the safety of others. This is a bonfire waiting to happen, and we are afraid your candle would fall over and you will be hurt in a fire.” Price said he is always careful with candles and does not want electricity.
He was asking for a week and had some friends help him move four loads but it was difficult finding a trailer to help move, he said.
“Give me a week Judge,” Price said. “Let me move them and plan on how to move them so I can re-use these things. I have been busy litigating for my rights to my home and fighting the invasion of motor-centric society and people who don’t produce anything because they are sitting behind the wheel of a car. I’m being productive.”
Privett suggested Price take the materials to his property out in the country and maybe a friend could help him take it out there, but Price said that is 20 miles away and using a vehicle uses gas.
“Work with code enforcement and the fire marshal to move it by March 1. If not, they will do it themselves,” Privett said.
The final orders had three phases, the first addressing the imminent dangers, Golden said. By March 30 at 4 p.m., Price needs to have abated all violations that are nuisances, including open storage of materials and equipment on the property and any violations contributing to the blighted appearance of the exterior property. He needs to present a plan to Code Enforcement by March 11 on meeting the requirements of phase 2. The final phase is making the home fit for human habitation by having lawful and adequate sources of heat, electrical service, sewer service, water service, absence of pest and rodent infestation among other things. A plan must be presented by April 30 and he has six months from the date of the order to abate those violations, said the attorney.
“Mr. Price has already appealed the order, so the second and third steps won’t be acted on until his due process has been exhausted,” Golden said, adding that could take some time.
Steve McClain can be reached at email@example.com.