City councilor struggles to clean up vacant home next door

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LAWRENCE, Ind. (Dec. 4, 2014) — A city councilor is up in arms after months of trying to clean up a vacant property right next door to his home.

Lawrence councilor Carl Barnett moved into his house in August, knowing the place next door had been abandoned for a few years. He thought as a councilor, though, it would be easy to keep it maintained.

“It’s like beating your head against the wall,” Barnett said.

Not only is the grass more like overgrown weeds, the bushes in August were almost as tall as the house, covering the porch and there’s been a woman feeding the stray cats out back.

On our visit, FOX59 saw empty cat food cans and a pan left out on the back porch.

Plus, there’s a large hole in the back of the house that anything – or anyone – could easily get through.

“Nothing’s been done here and they say this is okay,” Barnett said.

It’s a problem he knows is repeated across Marion County. FOX59 found the listed owner of the property at an address that no longer exists and more than $9,900 in owed taxes.

Barnett said he doesn’t want the property torn down, but instead just wants it maintained and the holes boarded up for safety.

“They made this situation that is so simple … a hard situation,” Barnett said.

In emails provided by Barnett, the city’s public works director accused him of ranting about the problem, saying the city has checked on the property numerous times.

“1-800-Board-Up responded to the address and reported no unsecured openings. … At no time during 2014 has the vegetation been in violation of our ordinances,” Director Bruce Northern said in the emails.

Still, it takes calls to multiple agencies to get help for an abandoned property in Marion County. Barnett said he’s worried that if he can’t fix the problem, no one else can in their neighborhood.

“If I can’t get this done and it’s right next door to me, that leaves little hope for the taxpayers and everybody else in the city that has this type of problem,” Barnett said.