Joseph city council looks to take action on nuisance house

By By Katy Nesbitt The Observer July 06, 2012 12:34 pm

An abandoned house in Joseph has neighbors up in arms and looking to city council for help. The house at 106 S. East St., has been unoccupied by years, except for a dozen cats.

Neighbors said they have asked the owner, who lives in California, to have the lawn mown and the requests have been ignored. Last month, the city sent the owner a letter asking that the lawn, now several feet high, be maintained. The 10-day response period past, the city is looking to take action and have the grass cut.

New city attorney Brent Smith said an option to correct the problems is to have the lawn mown and put a lien on the property to reimburse the city.

“We can put out to bid whatever we think needs to be done, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be reimbursed,” said Smith.

The feral cat problem will be trickier to solve, said Mayor Dennis Sands. Carol Vencil of the Wallowa County Humane Society, presented an option to trap, spay/neuter and release the cats back to the abandoned house, but that didn’t bode well with the council or the neighbors.

Cathy Maven said a window in the house is broken and the cats enter the house through that opening and live under the house as well. She and other neighbors said the inside of the house is mostly ruined.

Vencil said feral cats are a huge problem in the county. The Humane Society recently trapped, spayed/neutered, and released cats back to where they were found on Alder Slope outside of Enterprise. She said the society gets calls on a daily basis about feral cats.

Smith suggested passing an ordinance on feral animals and would survey other cities to see how they address the issue.

Thursday night the city council discussed road maintenance within the city limits and approved a $50,000 grant application to Oregon Department of Transportation to work on a few, key blocks of the city, including McCully St. next to the Post Office.

The disrepair of the city’s streets is an ongoing concern. At last month’s meeting, the council discussed purchasing an asphalt “zipper” to grind up the pavement and relay it. Larry Jennings of Joseph addressed the council and said that a zipper wouldn’t work because the streets are oil based.

Sands said he would consult with La Grande public works, who owns a zipper, to further research whether purchasing one would be a good solution for Joseph’s streets.

Councilor George Ballard mentioned an increase in speeders coming into town on the Imnaha Highway. He discussed the problem with Sheriff Fred Steen. The Sheriff’s Office has increased its patrol and has plans to install a radar speed detector at the entrance of Joseph to remind people to slow down.

At the meeting’s conclusion Sands said Crystal Broadband Networks has purchased the television cable system and is raising rates from $30 to $34. Sands said his concern is that the city hasn’t received franchise fees from the previous owner, Almega, and worries that the new company won’t pay either.

Sands said the city will send a letter to Crystal Broadband stating that they have a franchise agreement and expect to be paid.