City commission hears report on police activity, dogs, code enforcement
The Sabetha City Commission met at 6 p.m. Monday, April 22, at Sabetha City Hall.
Present were Mayor Doug Clark and commissioners Norm Schmitt Jr., Nick Aberle, Maridel Wittmer and Julie Burenheide. Also present were City Administrator Doug Allen and City Clerk Steve Compo. Assistant City Administrator Bill Shroyer arrived at 6:15 p.m.
The commissioners and those in attendance recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Mayor Clark called the meeting to order.
Sabetha Police Chief Robert Wahwasuck presented a verbal activities report to commissioners. Wahwasuck’s last report to commissioners was presented on Monday, March 25.
Since the last report, Wahwasuck said, city officers have responded to multiple thefts, as well as a few accidents and altercations. Officers have been able to identify suspects in numerous cases by using property owner’s personal surveillance equipment, Wahwasuck said, including sometimes that of neighbors.
Wahwasuck reported that coverage of the Sabetha High School prom and after prom went well.
Wahwasuck reported on the school “walk-throughs” that have been regularly conducted by officers. He said the students appear to be feeling comfortable with the officers now, as they get more used to their regular presence on these walk-throughs.
Commissioner Aberle asked Wahwasuck if his report was complete, because he had read a few items last week in the Nemaha County Sheriff’s Report that didn’t seem to be included in the report. Wahwasuck said he might have missed an item, and some other items he does not report on specifically if still under active investigation.
Aberle asked if there was a reason why specific items, which were already out in the public or in media reports, would not be included in the report. Wahwasuck said he could talk to the county attorney and bring back whatever information he was able to publicly release, if Aberle wanted it. Aberle said he did.
Aberle said that he is concerned about which city employees are driving city-owned trucks and equipment. During the winter, Aberle said, he personally witnessed someone driving a snow removal truck who he did not believe should be driving it.
“I do not want the city to be setting a bad precedent and wiggle the rules during snow removal,” Aberle said.
Aberle also said he witnessed what appeared to be an arrest on Main Street and noticed that there were two county deputies present. He asked Wahwasuck if it is normal for county deputies present for city arrests. Wahwasuck said it is common that county deputies will assist city police, just as city police will assist the county.
Aberle asked Wahwasuck of his opinion regarding the safety of Citywide Clean Up. Aberle said the it seemed to him that it might invite characters into town who might prowl around and take “anything within 50 feet of the street” from properties around town, including items that were not being set out for Clean Up. Wahwasuck said that he was sure Clean Up could be debated from many angles.
In the past month, Wahwasuck reported they have received 22 dog calls — a little less than one per day. Of those calls, Wahwasuck said, officers were able to locate the dog’s owners in 10 of the cases and the dogs were returned to the owners. Wahwasuck said that not all of the dogs called in are always able to be located by the time the officers or city employees are able to go to the location to look for them.
Out of the 22 dog calls, three citations were issued, Wahwasuck said.
City resident Heather Stewart asked if there was an update on the dog bite that occurred in city limits on Monday, April 1. Wahwasuck said that the dog bite case was supposed to be heard in city court, but that he was not there so he was not sure of an update.
Commissioner Burenheide asked if the dog bite was included in Wahwasuck’s report. Wahwasuck said the bite was one of the citations.
Two residents — Dick Beer and Alfred Moore — came before the commissioners to request clarifications on the code violations they had been cited with on their properties. Beer lives at 612 Jefferson Street, and Moore lives at 403 North Sixth Street.
Beer asked what part of his yard it was that “they didn’t like.”
Wahwasuck presented pictures to Beer and commissioners, showing a large scrap pile in the yard as well as multiple lawn mowers, old tires and a piece of farm machinery.
Speaking to the commissioners, Wahwasuck said he wanted to “make sure it is not up to my standard, but up to a standard you guys are okay with.”
While he had noticed the yard and items previously, Wahwasuck said, he had not talked to Beer about it since neighbors had not yet complained. However, he had issued a citation upon receiving a complaint and finding there to be health and safety violations at the property.
“I go around and clean driveways of just about everybody in town, and I ain’t getting rid of my farm machinery,” Beer said. “It’s really town machinery. I don’t have a farm.”
Wahwasuck said the main issues were the old tires, lawn mowers and the pile of scrap.
Beer said he would haul off the scrap pile, but he is not getting rid of the lawn mowers. Beer also said he understood the tires should be removed, and he will take care of that.
Burenheide asked if the lawn mowers are operational. Beer said they do all run.
Beer said the items in his yard are useful and he should be able to keep them in his yard however he wants.
Wittmer asked Wahwasuck if he had pictures of the two properties on either side of Beer’s property. Wahwasuck said he did not, because they were not discussing those properties at this time.
Moore asked about the citation he was given for his property.
Wahwasuck displayed photos he had taken at Moore’s property, pointing out multiple motorcycles and lawn mowers, as well as piles of items sitting on the ground.
Moore said all but one of the lawn mowers work, and that one is currently without an engine.
Wahwasuck said the main issue is that the items are all sitting out in the yard, and city ordinance states that the items cannot be sitting around on the ground.
Moore stated that he just tore down his garage, and all of the items have come out of his garage and would go back inside the garage once he encloses the carport.
Mayor Clark asked how long it would be before the items could go back inside.
Moore said he is continuously working on the property and is making progress, but it just seems like it is never fast enough.
“It doesn’t seem like you are ever going to quit,” Moore said. “If I am going to make progress, why do people want to keep bothering about it? My pace is my pace.”
Wahwasuck said what he needs from Moore is a timeline of when he can expect the items to be cleaned up.
“We realize it is your pace, but it would be nice to know what your pace is,” Wahwasuck said.
“I don’t have to explain myself,” Moore said.
Burenheide said she understands what Moore is saying, and she has noticed continual progress on his property.
Aberle said that Moore must consider that he does have neighbors.
“That is one of the downfalls of living in town,” Aberle said. “You have to get along with people. Everybody has to abide by a community standard.”
Moore said that he has been working on it.
“There has not been a single thing I’ve said I was going to do on that house that I haven’t done,” Moore said.
“I think he is working with it. He brought the garage down,” Burenheide said. “Unfortunately, there are going to be people who don’t think that.”
Clark said he would like to give Moore a few months, and then check back to see what progress has been made. He asked Wahwasuck to give the commissioners an updated report on the property at that time.
City Administrator Allen asked commissioners if they had made a decision regarding the parking lot, per Jeannie Bachelor’s request at the March 25 commission meeting.
Schmitt said he believes there is plenty of public parking near Main Street. For example, Schmitt said, if he goes to Lawrence he will park and walk four or five blocks to get where he wants to go.
Burenheide said the price on the parking lot is too high.
The commissioners voted unanimously not to make the parking lot public.
Schmitt asked Wahwasuck whether vehicles that park in the lot illegally could be subject to towing by the property owners. Wahwasuck said they could, but it would be up to the property owners to call and report it.
A private property owner can restrict parking on their property, Wahwasuck said.
Also at the meeting:
Commissioners approved Wage Resolution 2019-06 for summer help.
The commissioners approved two nuisance vehicle resolutions — 2019-07 for a vehicle at 217 South Fifth Street, and 2019-08 for a vehicle at 914 Virginia Street. These resolutions will be printed in next week’s Herald.