ALMO HEIGHTS — When a sitting county judge-executive, one of his magistrates and the county’s solid waste coordinator gather on a freezing cold morning to witness a solid-waste removal operation, that is a sign they have high interest in the operation.
That was indeed the case Wednesday morning in the community of Almo Heights, located at the intersection of a pair of state highways — 464 (known as Almo Road) and 1824 (Radio Road) — where a building that had housed a lawn mower repair business was destroyed about two years ago in a fire. The debris from that fire had not been removed, despite several attempts to notify the property owner that action needed to be taken.
So against a background of frost and mid-20s temperatures at about 8 that morning, Calloway County officials declared, in the words of Judge-Executive Kenny Imes, “enough is enough” and removed the wreckage from that fire from the intersection.
“I’m ready to see it gone,” said Imes, who said he has had personal interest in this project, being he was raised in the area. “Now, Almo is about a mile east of us but I remember back many years ago, this place we’re at today used to be a grocery store. In fact, they had three groceries scattered on the corner, along with a hotel (at the northwest corner).
“This store had about three or four different owners, but here’s the bottom line. We don’t need this in Calloway County, anywhere! I respect property rights as much, if not more, than anybody, but there comes a time you just have to take the bull by the horns and do what you’ve got to do.”
Solid Waste Coordinator Gidget Manning said she had attempted to make contact with the property owner since the fire. She said she had accumulated a very large paper trail that included numerous letters she mailed, all of which returned without any response. So, feeling the same frustration, bordering on disgust, as Imes that this site was still in this condition, she looked for help.
First, she attempted to utilize the county’s solid waste ordinance that was enacted a few years ago, specifically the part that discussed nuisance properties. Imes said this more than fit that description in that large rats have been reported on the property, plus people apparently have attempted to burn the piles of wood that had remained from the fire.
The problem with the ordinance is that, in order for it to be effective, contact must be made with the property owner.
“So we’ve been chasing every little rabbit we can find to get permissions and leeway to clean it up,” Manning said, noting that the discovery of tires on the property opened an important door. “I get a $4,000 tire grant from the state every year, so we used that and we’ll end up taking those we find today to the next Make a Difference Day (recyclables collection in Murray). We found more than we thought was here too, after we got to digging.”
All told, more than 50 tires were removed. As for the rest of the debris, it was a matter of taking matters into their own hands. Manning said a private contractor has pledged to accept the fire wreckage, which also included a portion of cinder blocks that were still standing.
Manning also said this comes after her office received numerous phone calls about the property, with the message being simple.
“Just clean it up!” she said. “No one was fussing or blaming anybody for it, but I understand it. You don’t want to live beside this. You don’t want to look at it when you drive by on the way home or look at it from your front door or back door. They’re just asking you to get it cleaned up for them.”
Calloway County Magistrate District 1 Eddie Clyde Hale was also present for Wednesday’s activities and said he, too, had received many phone calls about this.
“That’s because people are concerned about it. Plus, it definitely is an eyesore,” Hale said. “You know, it’s been a couple of years now and we’re glad to see this project started. Now, we’re going to get it cleaned up.”
Imes also pledged that this is not going to be the only time such an operation will happen in the county. He said there are other properties that are just about to the end of the line when it comes to waiting on making contact with owners.
“We’re going to start doing this all over the county. We’re trying to follow the due process route, but we’re finding that we’re getting very little progress made when we’re sending certified letters. It’s time-consuming and that’s the aggravating part,” he said, adding that the Almo Heights site seems to have a chance at new life.
“I think people have bought tax liens on it, and, you know, it’s not a bad piece of property. You’ve got two state highways coming together right here, so hopefully something good can come here.”