Property owners need to cut weeds

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The Socorro City Council received a brief update on weeds and abandoned buildings during the council’s regular meeting Monday.

Mike Czosnek, city building inspector and code enforcement officer, during his department report said the city does have some funds in the budget for demolishing dilapidated structures, although he hasn’t pursued any of those recently.

“As far as weeds, we’re attacking them,” Czosnek said.

He said two recent cases were of properties belonging to out-of-town absentee landlords.

“I spoke with both of them and there’s progress happening,” Czosnek said. “Sometimes they take a little longer than we’d like them to.”

During an interview in September, Czosnek strongly encouraged property owners to clean up overgrown weeds on their land. He said the city receives many complaints in the autumn about overgrown properties — especially in years with significant rainfall. He said the city ordinance states weeds and grass must be no higher than 4 inches.

Czosnek noted landlords are ultimately responsible for their properties, even if their rental agreements state the tenants are expected to tend the yards.

“The property owner is responsible,” Czosnek said. “How they manage with their tenants is their own concern.”

Czosnek said when the city discovers a violation, he contacts the property owner. The contractor the city uses charges $47 per hour for cleanup. Czosnek gets an estimate of the work, then sends a letter to the property owner informing them of the violation and estimated cost for the city to have it cleaned up. The owner then has 15 days to cut the weeds. Czosnek explained the city allows 15 days in order to give the person two weekends to address the problem.

If the weeds are not cut within that time, the city sends the $47-an-hour contractor, and then the city sends the property owner a bill for that work. Czosnek said if the owner does not pay that bill in 30 days, the city puts a lien on the property and interest accrues on the lien at around 10 to 12 percent.

“So for the mere act of not cutting your weeds, it can get pretty expensive if you have a large lot or a number of properties,” Czosnek said.

If the lien is not paid, whatever amount is owed the city will be deducted when the property is sold.

Czosnek said if the situation is left untended, interest could potentially accrue so that the value of the lien exceeds the value of the property, and the city could end up with the deed.

Czosnek said, however, the city does not want to be in the business of taking over people’s land; the city wants people to cut their weeds and keep their properties in order. Weeds are an attractive nuisance for vermin and even criminals, not to mention a fire hazard when they dry out.

Czosnek noted fireworks are allowed during New Year’s, and lots crowded with dry weeds pose a significant fire hazard to the whole community.

During Monday’s meeting, Mayor Ravi Bhasker said he recently saw people burning leaves and asked if that was all right. Fire Chief Joe Gonzales replied it was all right since there is no burn ban in place.

“We actually encourage them to clean their yards,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales advised people to call the fire department before they burn their weeds and leaves, burn on a day with no wind and have pressurized water — i.e., a hose — readily available. He also recommended people let their neighbors know what is going on.

Gonzales added that since the weather will turn cold soon, residents should make sure to service their wood stoves and fireplaces before using them. Utilities director Jay Santillanes encouraged residents to call the gas department or the fire department with any questions about carbon monoxide.

“We can check things out,” Santillanes said.

Bhasker noted at least one person goes to the emergency room for carbon monoxide poison each winter.

The fire department can be reached at 575-835-3969, and the gas department at 575-835-0240.

In other business, the Socorro City Council:

• Approved a resolution stating the city would accept the National Guard Armory building from the New Mexico State Armory Board. National Guard Col. Timothy Paul made a presentation, informing the council that the State Armory Board intends to give the armory to the city and requested the City Council adopt a resolution that it is willing to accept the building. Bhasker said the city was sorry to see the armory leave town, but glad to use the building as a convention facility/civic center/exhibition hall in conjunction with its new rodeo facility. The resolution states the city deeded the property to the State Armory Board in May 1960 to build a National Guard Armory.

• Approved the election resolution for the city election to be held March 4, 2014. Bhasker said the mayor and four council seats will be up for election to four-year terms.

City Clerk Pat Salome said the council seats up for election are currently filled by Councilors Nick Fleming, Donald Monette, Gordon Hicks and Ernest Pargas. He said polling places have been consolidated to two, located at the Socorro Youth Center, 1002 Ake St., and Finley Gym, 201 McCutcheon St. Salome said early voting is Feb. 12-28, 2014. Voters have until the end of the day Feb. 4, 2014, to register. Declarations of candidacy must be filed with the clerk between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Jan. 7, 2014.

• Held the city’s third and final public hearing for Community Development Block Grant projects and approved two projects to submit in January 2014: drainage improvement projects in the areas of Texas Street and Vermont Street.

 

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