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MOUNT WASHINGTON - Members of the Mount Washington City Council recently took time to address the vacant property at the corner of Highway 44 and Fisher Lane, as well as the abandoned fuel station at First Street and Old Bardstown Road.
When councilman Greg Gentry inquired where the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet stood with regard to acquiring right-of-way at 44 and Fisher for an intersection improvement project slated to begin this year, mayor Joetta Calhoun said as of late KYTC maintained that work would be underway this spring.
Upon securing the necessary right-of-way, KYTC plans to move Fisher Lane west to meet Armstrong Lane, which is also slated for relocation.
The two streets will converge at 44 to make way for an intersection with turning lanes and a permanent stop light to help alleviate the congestion that has plagued the area for years.
Councilman Barry Armstrong questioned why the state was proposing to go around the dilapidated house that sits on the corner of Fisher and 44, rather than going through it.
Mayor Joetta Calhoun said KYTC plans called for moving Fisher in order for the road to meet Armstrong Lane at 44, not to avoid the house.
With that, Gentry asked if the house could be condemned or if the city could possibly negotiate a creative solution to have the property torn down with the property owner, Bob Hall.
“I just want to see what the city can do,” Gentry said.
Regarding what action the city could take, assistant city attorney Matthew Lemme said the first step would be citing the property owner in violation of the city’s property maintenance ordinance.
Should the property owner refuse to pay the citations, Lemme said the city could place a lien on the property.
“I feel like we need to do something,” Armstrong said.
In response to councilman Gayle Troutman’s suggestion that the Mount Washington Fire Protection District could burn the house, it was noted that the structure likely contained asbestos, in which case the building would have to be stripped of the hazardous fiber by trained professionals.
Armstrong asked how much it would cost to have asbestos removed from the house, to which city engineer Dave Derrick said anywhere from a few-thousand to many thousands of dollars.
The councilman went on to say that while he and others on the council were long-time friends with the property owner, who spent many years in Mount Washington before moving to Oregon, he felt it was the city’s responsibility to do whatever necessary to clean up the property.
“What’s the next move?” Armstrong asked.
Troutman then said it was time to address the abandoned fuel station at Old Bardstown Road and First Street, which has stood vacant so long there is a sign that advertises gasoline for $1.84 per gallon.
Calhoun wished to point out that some time ago the council received recommendations from city attorney Norman Lemme regarding how to move forward on the First Street property.
In lieu of pursuing civil charges according to the city’s property maintenance ordinance, Lemme recommended the city pursue criminal charges against the property owner, who has yet to be served because he couldn’t be located, Calhoun said.
“It’s not as though we’ve been sitting on our thumbs,” Calhoun said.
Incidentally, the property owner could not be located because he went under a number of aliases, according to Mount Washington Police Chief Roy Daugherty.
“I recommend we finish with the Hall deal first,” Armstrong said, changing the subject.
Gentry said he had major safety concerns regarding the Hall property, namely the abandoned house on it, which has fallen into disrepair due to years of neglect.
Matthew Lemme reiterated that the city should begin by citing the property owner and placing a lien on the property for the amount of the unpaid citations.
The assistant city attorney also said the city could make corrections to the property once the owner was notified and given time to respond.
Any cost the city incurred from the corrections could be added to the lien amount as well, Lemme said.
“Sometimes a slightly unpleasant nudge from the city is what it takes for a property owner to do what they need to do,” he said.
Councilwoman Sandi Hockenbury suggested the council draft a timetable of action if the city is going to move forward on the Hall property, “so when people ask where we are on this we can tell them what step we’re on and whether we’re making progress.”
Lemme said it was acceptable for council members to act in whatever way they saw fit to gain compliance, whether it’s working with the property owner to correct any violations or it’s placing a lien on the property.
Back to the subject of the abandoned fuel station on First Street, Lemme said the city could bring civil action against the property owner even if he isn’t served.
Were Mount Washington to file a civil suit against the property owner for safety reasons, Lemme said the city could potentially take over the property and have the structures on it removed.
Calhoun emphasized that the city attorney advised the council pursue criminal action before seeking civil action, adding that the city had several liens on the property already.
Back to the Hall property, councilman Wheeler said while the city considers what can be done to bring the property into compliance the vacant house on the property should be boarded up for public safety.
With that, the mayor said council members were welcome to stop by her office to express concerns with regard to these and all other matters anytime.
“I’m happy to do anything I can to help,” she said.