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The Daily



08-07-03: Resident fears pest infestation
Mercer County-Celina City Board of Health

    A home on Jill Avenue in Celina that has been repossessed by the state is infested with bugs, and the property owner next door is demanding action by the health department.
    Thomas Chivers, of 232 Jill Avenue, expressed his concerns before the Mercer County-Celina City Board of Health meeting Wednesday afternoon. He is worried that the "army of bugs and vermin" at 228 Jill Avenue will soon invade his home.
    Chivers said the former resident, Emily Truesdale, asked him to feed the cats that she had to leave behind. About three weeks ago, Chivers went over to feed the cats while officials from the county auditor and sheriff's office were inside. Looking through an open door, he said the sights and smells coming from the inside were ghastly, and the men inside were wearing gloves and tall boots.
    "The moment I put the (cat) food down, bugs came out of everywhere. It was like a moving carpet," Chivers explained the scene on the pavement outside the house.
    "This is a health issue, with all those vermin and bugs," he continued. "And nothing's been done about it."
    Health board members had not heard of the case before Tuesday, but health department Sanitarian Chris Miller was on the scene when county auditor officials were there for the back taxes problem a month ago.
    Mercer County Auditor Mark Giesige told The Daily Standard the condition of the home is one of the most horrible sights he has ever seen.
    Giesige said former owner Truesdale owed approximately $11,000 in back taxes and was evicted from the property three weeks ago on an order from Mercer County Common Pleas Court. After the home was taken from Truesdale, the owed taxes were forgiven and she moved to another location in the city.
    The property, valued at $90,000, has twice been to sheriff's sale and not sold. The property is now in the possession of the state and under the control of the county auditor.
    Giesige said he has arranged for the property to be mowed regularly, but he does not have the authority to have the inside cleaned up.
    From the exterior, the home looks comparable to the other homes on Jill Avenue. But the inside is filled with all sorts of items, Giesige said, like old food, trash and animal waste. The roof is caving-in in some spots and the windows leak.
    "We're trying to be sensitive to the neighbors concerns while working within the legal framework," Giesige said Wednesday night. "We're moving as fast as possible."
    Not fast enough for Chivers, who said he and the neighbors are not going to wait for government bureaucracy much longer.
    "It's not going to plague us much longer," Chivers told the health board. "None of us in here want to have a whole nation of bugs and vermin living next door."
    Miller explained to Chivers and the board that the state has ownership. Private property owners can have their taxes assessed if the health department is forced to intervene and clean up. But, because the ownership lies with the state, there are no taxes to assess, Miller explained.
    "The same law should apply to the state," Chivers said. "The bugs are the same."
    Miller said he has been working with Mercer County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Amy Ikerd on how the property issues can be addressed.
    Chivers said perhaps Ikerd would act more quickly if she lived next door.
    "How about you equip this Mrs. Ikerd with a sleeping bag and rations and let her spend the night in there," Chivers said.
    Board member Dr. Ed Hosbach suggested the health board take action to have the inside cleaned and find out who gets stuck with the bill later.
    "The state bureaucracy could take months," Hosbach said. "We should just get it done, eventually the dust will settle on who pays for it."
    The board did not make a decision on what to do with the property, but assured Chivers he would hear from the department or Ikerd within a week.
    Giesige said he is trying to convince the bank to purchase the house back. If that does not happen, and the health department does not have the home condemned, it will go to an auditor's auction.


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