Emergency order puts Floyd County taxpayers on the hook for homeowner's trash-filled property
You can't miss the house on Haufelt Lane in New Albany.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- You can't miss the house on Hausfeldt Lane in New Albany.
"It looks like a city dump." said Larry Clemons, who owns a neighboring property.
From crutches to crock pots and beat up old cars, authorities said the trash brings rats and snakes and has gone too far. The weeds cover the front windows, cloths, kitchen plates and cups sit under plastic tarps and many of the cars on the lawn are piled to the rooftops with scraps. There are old toys and old tires and debris as far as the eye can see from the front to the backyard.
Most look around finding it hard to understand, but for one man, it's not trash.
Jarrett Hamilton, 66, went to court in Floyd County on Monday with his home on the line and no his lawyer by his side.
"I have not been allowed to go on my property since February, so how now can they complain I don't get nothing done?" Hamilton said Monday.
He said he misunderstood a February court order requiring him to submit a plan for how he'd clean up his property. When he tried to make headway on the mess, police threatened to arrest him.
The Floyd County Health Department ruled the house inhabitable, potentially harboring West Nile Virus with standing water. Police and fire also said it's a safety hazard.
"He never lifted a finger," said Rick Fox, the Floyd County Attorney.
Court records say the property has been a problem since at least 2012. It sits in this fringe area right at the line between the city of New Albany and the Floyd County line, and the city has paid to clean up the mess twice before.
After Monday's hearing, Floyd County taxpayers are on the hook for cleanup. After hearing testimony from New Chapel Fire, the Floyd County sheriff, the health department and neighbors, the judge declared "an emergency exists" and took the abatement out of Hamilton's hands.
There is no estimate for the cost to clean the property. New Albany has reportedly spent tens of thousands of dollars cleaning the property in prior years, and the city's attempts to recover the cost from Hamilton resulted in ongoing litigation over what was removed.
"Now they said they're going to bulldoze it and tear my house down," Hamilton said.
"That is not the intention," Fox responded. "The county's intention is to remove all the trash and debris from the property."
But Hamilton's fear is valid.
"That's going to be a situation we're going to have to address with the courts and make some sort of determination to prevent this from happening again," Fox said.
Hamilton asked repeatedly for a continuance to bring in his lawyer and for a jury trial. All of those requests were denied, but he said he'll continue the fight
"It's going to be appealed," Hamilton said. "I'm not putting up with this. I've got rights too. I'm tired of this corrupt government."
Hamilton was found in contempt of court Monday. He said his constitutional rights are being violated. He's filed several lawsuits against Floyd County, the health department and the city of New Albany.
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