The City Commission of Arkansas City voted unanimously to declare several structures within the city as unsafe and dangerous at a meeting Jan. 3. Each of the six structures was voted on separately after individual public hearings were held for each building.
Among the structures declared unsafe was the house of Brett Martin at 617 S. Fourth St.
The other five structures voted on were:
- 608 S. Fourth St.
- 614 S. Fourth St.
- 413 W. Madison Ave.
- 421 W. Madison Ave.
- 1419 S. Summit St.
Martin was on hand for the meeting to speak directly to the commissioners about his property. Before Martin was given the floor, however, Neighborhood Services Superintendent Richard Brown shared his notes on the structure with the commission.
Brown said he first was made aware of Martin’s property in June 2015, when he was informed that the water service had been discontinued to the property. Following that initial contact, Brown said he attempted to work with Martin to remedy the issues with the structure.
Those issues ended up being more severe than just discontinued water service, though.
On March 30, 2016, Brown and Combination Inspector Mike Bellis were allowed to enter the house.
The two city employees found mold growing down the walls from the ceiling in several areas.
“I tried to work with him, but he never would do what he said he would do,” Brown said of Martin.
“I told him that he could not live in a house without electricity, water and heat … that it was unsanitary and hazardous to his health. Not to mention the neighbors having to put up with (his) throwing feces out the back door.”
Mold and structural issues
At that time, Martin still was living inside the house. Brown expressed great concern about the amount of mold that was found in the structure.
In the middle of last month, Martin, Brown and two contractors met at the structure to address the mounting issues.
“We went in for about five to 10 minutes, but the plumber and the electrician weren’t going to stay — the mold problem was too bad.” Brown said.
“They said they wouldn’t be back until the mold was taken care of.”
Martin was given several weeks to remove his property from the structure, but has not yet finished doing so. He, on the other hand, claims the house isn’t “near as bad as what he (Brown) said it is,” despite photographic evidence shown at the meeting.
Martin said he had someone willing to pay for supplies to fix the roof of the structure, another issue pointed out by Brown.
“Do you have a contractor?” said City Manager Nick Hernandez. “I can get one,” Martin said.
Commissioners set goals
Among other claims Martin made was that his electrical work in the house had been completed. One photo shown Jan. 3 displayed a bundle of wires hanging out of the ceiling. “(The electrician) said he ain’t never seen anybody run wiring as good as I had,” Martin said.
He also said he’d gotten the “whole place re-sheetrocked,” but admitted later that it had been 10 years since the project had been completed.
“I don’t think we’re interested in what you know,” said Mayor Duane Oestmann. “What I’d like to know is what you’re doing.”
Martin said he was 59 and unemployed, and added it took time for him to do things because he doesn’t have a truck.
“How are you going to get the funds? Do you have family?” Oestmann asked. “Yes, I have some family,” Martin said. “But I have friends.”
Hernandez said the commission was looking for more of a timetable as to when tasks could be accomplished.
“The mold has got to be done,” said Commissioner Charles Tweedy III. “It’s going to be expensive,” Hernandez warned.
“There’s government agencies (that can help),” said Martin, citing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as one such entity.
“We understand that, Mr. Martin, but why hasn’t it been done before now?” Oestmann said. “Mr. Brown has given you plenty of time.”
“I didn’t know about the mold until before Christmas,” Martin claimed. “That was never brought up.”
The commissioners finally voted 4-0 to declare Martin’s house a dangerous structure, with the understanding that he would call a mold remediation company and have that company report to Brown within two weeks, as well as remove the rest of his property from the structure within one week.
The commission also took time during the meeting to witness the swearing in of two new Arkansas City Police Department employees and acknowledge the hiring of an animal control officer.
The new officers, Cori Deill and Ivan Velasquez, will begin training at Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in two weeks.
Deill is a former Arkansas City and Cowley County dispatcher, while Velasquez comes to the department fluent in both English and Spanish.
Sky Chapman, the new public service officer, also will attend an animal control class at the law enforcement academy at a later date.
This marks the first time that ACPD has been fully staffed under Police Chief Dan Ward.
In other business, the commission:
- heard a monthly report from South Central Kansas Medical Center that summarized the hospital’s 2016 finances.
- approved the Dec. 20, 2016, regular meeting minutes.
- unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the rezoning of 1401 S. Sixth St. from Public Use to an R-3 high-density residential district.
- voted 3-1 to approve an ordinance modifying Article 25 of the Zoning Regulations and amending Municipal Code accordingly.
- asked staff to create a special events permitting process to include requests for permission to have alcohol on public property.
- gave purchasing authority of up to $20,000 to Hernandez to pay for a new phone system for ACPD and the Arkansas City Fire-EMS Department. The police phones no longer are 100 percent functional and the fire-EMS phones are completely inoperable.
Commissioner Jay Warren was absent from the meeting.