June 20, 2014

Ray Augenstein

Ray Augenstein

I saw in the letters to the editor, a letter about blight problems in Farwell.  As the former Hayes Township Supervisor, I can tell you that blight is one of the worse problems in our neighborhoods. Not only in Farwell but in every township in the state of Michigan.  I have drove through areas and it seemed as if I was carried to the Hills of Kentucky, and Tennessee.  Old cars filled the yards, garbage piled high around the house, Kids running barefoot followed by animals.  In a couple of places there were chickens running back and forth across the road, here in Clare County.

One of the hardest jobs for a supervisor is how to address the blight problem. We have hired a zoning inspector, a blight enforcement officer, and a lawyer to give advice. We have passed Ordinances, wrote tickets, sent letters, and knocked on doors. But the blight keeps on growing.
It would be something if we could give the property owner 30 days to clean up the blight, and then have the township employees go on site and clean it up and then attach a lien on the property to pay the cost. However it is not that easy.  The township sometimes gets the property owner to comply with the cleanup order, but many times, within days, it is back to the same condition it was before.  Sometimes I think some people like living in those conditions,  with junk piled all around the house as a haven for Rats, Mosquitoes, Skunks and other Nuisance critters.
I don’t like it when I paid a fair price for my home to have someone move in next door or across the street, who creates a blight condition. My property value goes down and if I decide to sell my property, no one wants to buy a home in a neighborhood that is filled with blight.  Now l can sympathize with someone who is physically unable to clean up their yard, or keep it mowed.

I have a similar problem because of my spinal condition, but I do not deliberately pile junk around my yard, or park old cars beside the house.  I try to maintain my property as if I were going to have an inspection, even to the point of hiring someone to help me do the things that I can’t do.   I salute Rod Williams, our zoning enforcement Officer, for doggedly trying to run down the offenders and affect a solution to the blight problem. However his hands are tied when the law will not back him in his efforts.

It really comes down to our community pride to ensure that we take care of our own property. It’s up to us to make sure that our own yards are clean and free of trash, and our lawns are mowed.

I heard of a group in Lansing, comprised of teen agers who were out of school for the summer, which formed a club to assist people who couldn’t maintain their yards.   They covered their neighborhood with posters including the phone number, and when someone called, a team of teens would descend on the property and mow the lawn, trim the bushes, paint the fence or house or whatever was needed to make house look neat and trim.

Wouldn’t it be great if the teens in our communities would form such a club?  And the community could make donations to provide the supplies and equipment.
Just a thought.

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