The healing process has started on a longtime neighborhood eyesore in Ralston. The city has made an unusual move in court on a vacant house that taxpayers have been paying to clean up for years.
Bill Clinton was president and Nebraska won a national championship in football. Neighbors believe this house has been vacant since then. “From my understanding, neighbors say maybe 15 years it’s been vacant and that's just insane,” said neighbor Jason Wiederin.
Five times over the last two summers, a city crew cut and cleared the yard, then sent bills to the owner in Oregon, but taxpayers have yet to be paid back.
“This is a test case for us,” said Ralston Police Chief Ron Murtaugh, who along with the city code inspector appeared in small claims court. The homeowner didn't, so the city got a $500 default judgment, but more importantly it's a legal step toward forcing repairs. “Now, progress with this property, see if we can work diligently to provide better surroundings for the neighbors,” said Chief Murtaugh.
Inspectors and neighbors can only judge the possible condition inside the houses by what they see on the outside. “The snakes, they get in the back yard and the kids play in the back yard, so there's broke out windows,” said neighbor Vicki Lang.
Neighbors say it’s not just the condition of the house that concerns them. It appears the trees need some serious sprucing up as well. The judgment triggers a lien on the property and soon a city code inspection. “It’s just been a nuisance house so I'm happy to see something being done,” said Wiederin.
“It’s just not good to have a house sitting empty with no one taking care of it,” said Lang.
Neighbors are glad to hear the city hasn't abandoned legal action on the vacant house. The city's next move will be an inspection warrant to go inside, likely next week. The actions could force the homeowner to fix up or sell. Calls to the owner by Fact Finders haven't been returned.