By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
With the Kansas Supreme Court limiting counties abilities to clean up properties that become a nuisance, local governments are searching for ways to get something done.
In Ellis County, commissioners voted to approve the Insurance Proceeds Resolution at their weekly meeting Monday evening. The resolution, which has been a point of contention, gives the county a way to make sure properties destroyed by fire, wind or an explosion will be cleaned up.
The resolution only applies to residential districts in unincorporated portions of the county. County Administrator Greg Sund stressed the resolution will not affect people living in agricultural zones.
“If you’re in an area that has residential housing and your neighbor’s house is destroyed by fire or explosion or something else, it does affect your property,” he said.
The resolution states if damage to a structure or building is more than 75 percent of the value of the insurance coverage on the building the county can hold 15 percent of the insurance payout until the county is satisfied the structure is cleaned up.
The payout goes into a special fund set up by the county treasurer’s office, and the funds can only be used for the cleanup.
County officials have been in contact with two counties that have similar resolutions, and they have only had a few cases where the resolution has been invoked.
The Kansas Legislature is also set to take up a bill soon that would give counties the ability to clean up properties in unincorporated areas at the cost of the owner of the property.
House Bill 2247 would allow counties to remove all nuisances, including rank grass, weeds or other vegetation. Counties would also be allowed to drain ponds if it is deemed to be a health hazard.
“If we don’t have this regulation and the state passes this allowance for us, we could do some of the cleanup but getting it paid for is difficult,” Sund said.