Leavenworth County commissioners met Thursday in their role as the County Board of Health to discuss whether a vacant residence poses an imminent health hazard.
In the end, commissioners decided to take up the matter again in two weeks after mold testing has been performed at the site.
The house at 15264 Prairie View Road was discussed during a public hearing. Commissioners could have ordered the house demolished if they found the property posed a health risk.
County Counselor David Van Parys said the home in southeast Leavenworth County has been unoccupied for years. He said it is located in the Tanglewood subdivision.
He said the county has been dealing with the property on an active basis since 2005.
Van Parys cited a report from Leavenworth County Health Department Director Jamie Miller, who inspected the property Dec. 3.
"Overall this property and dwelling have several health and safety issues that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of the community," Miller wrote in the report.
He recommended that immediate action be taken to eliminate the health hazards that have been identified.
Miller wrote that the "house appears in a deteriorated and decaying fashion" and the property is a "vector borne and nuisance animal breeding ground."
Miller, who also attended the meeting, said signs indicating the house is uninhabitable have been posted at the property since 2008. He said the signs will remain in place until the County Commission makes a determination as the County Board of Health and the safety concerns are addressed.
Van Parys said there have been issues in the past with identifying who legally owned the property.
Redie Lewis produced paperwork during Thursday's hearing showing she recently acquired the property.
"I buy old properties and I bring them up to code," she said.
Lewis said she has secured the property and started cleaning up the front yard. She began cleaning up the site Dec. 28, which was after Miller's inspection.
"The property is not a health hazard," Lewis said.
She questioned how the house can be a health hazard when no one lives there.
"The house has been boarded up," she said.
Lewis said she should be given time to complete what she has started.
"I will take care of this property but I need time to do it," she said.
Van Parys suggested having a code enforcement officer inspect the property and revisit the matter in 60 days to see what progress has been made.
If the property can be repaired and brought up to standards, that would be the goal of the county, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - If the property continues to be a nuisance, the matter can be brought to court now that an owner has been identified, Van Parys said.
Several residents who live near the vacant home spoke during the public hearing.
Wanda Jones, who lives across the street from the home, said she appreciates the change in appearance resulting from Lewis' cleanup effort.
"But, I think the problem is much more deeper," Jones said.
Willie Dove, a state representative who lives in the area, said the issue can't be delayed for 30 days because of the urgency of the health issues. The argued the owner has moral responsibility to address the problems.
Dove presented county commissioners photographs of other properties owned by Lewis.
"And they don't look any better," he said.
Greg Bogart, who lives near the vacant property, said neighbors agree that the house needs to be torn down. He said there is no way the house can be repaired.
Neighbors who spoke during the hearing complained of mold in the vacant house.
Commission Chairman Bob Holland asked Lewis if she would allow someone into the house to inspect for mold.
Van Parys said the inspection would paid for by the county.
Holland suggested revisiting the issue in two weeks following the inspection.
Van Parys questioned whether a report on mold testing can be completed in two weeks. But, if the report is not completed in time, commissioners still can receive an update.
Commissioner Clyde Graeber said a report about an earlier mold problem at the Leavenworth County Courthouse was completed in five or six days.
Bixby said issues with the property having been going on for a number of years. He said he doesn't want it to take 10 years to bring the house up to standards. But, he's willing to wait for two weeks.
Bixby said he would like to see a plan of action for bringing the house up to code.
"I'm definitely not for dragging this on," Holland said.
He said people's safety could be at risk.
Commissioners approved a motion to re-examine the matter Jan. 23 following an inspection for mold.