WILMINGTON — Blight and other major building-and-zoning noncompliance issues will be the focus for the first phase of a new program called Clean Up Clinton County.
During the county budget season last fall, commissioners saw to it that the county prosecutor’s office was provided enough added funds to hire a new attorney to help enforce a cleanup project. The new attorney is expected to start next week.
In an appointment Monday with Clinton County commissioners, Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney Richard “Rick” W. Moyer said the majority of the new staffer’s time will be spent on blighted properties, delinquent taxes, and zoning.
The areas that the Clean Up Clinton County program will address are the townships and villages in the county. At a recent local townships association meeting, commissioners advised trustees to select their top three properties for corrective action and submit them to the county prosecutor’s office.
Moyer noted that two of Clinton County’s 13 townships do not have zoning. Those are Washington Township which includes the town of Cuba, and Clark Township which surrounds the village of Martinsville.
According to Moyer, if a blighted property is located in an unzoned township and there are no delinquent taxes, it will be “a lot harder” for the prosecutor’s office to deal with the property.
“So at that point I would have to bring in the Board of Health, maybe the fire department, [and/or] some other individuals and say this is why this property is a risk or menace to the people who live around it. In the zoned townships, it should go a little easier,” Moyer said.
He added he wants the new attorney to go to the targeted sites with Building & Zoning Manager Walt Daniel to see the zoning infractions in person.
When Clean Up Clinton County enforcement begins and the word gets out, other people might start cleaning their own mess to avoid a mandate, according to the prosecuting attorney.
Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed said Monday that commissioners in traveling around the county have on numerous occasions heard that it’s time to clean things up and put some enforcement teeth into dealing with non-compliant property owners.
At the same Monday session of county commissioners, Blanchester Council Member Reilly Hopkins spoke about a need for funds to potentially obtain new space for the town’s government operations such as police, the BPA and mayor’s office.
Hopkins specifically asked about Legacy Fund grants, and also asked commissioners whether they had grant suggestions in general for the village. The Clinton County Legacy Fund consists of money the county received from selling county-owned Clinton Memorial Hospital.
He was told 60 percent of allocated Legacy Fund dollars will go to local governments, and the Clinton County Legacy Fund Committee will decide on those grants, not the commissioners.
The Blanchester Municipal Building is a former school building, and Hopkins said he feels like the facility is getting too run down. In addition, village voters have not supported a proposed earnings tax as a source of revenue.
“Our police department is probably the oldest part of the building and probably gets the most use,” he said.
In his opinion, if the village didn’t apply for funds, it would be a disservice. “Just like everyone else — it’s across America — there’s failing infrastructure across America,” said the Blanchester councilman.
Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty suggested that one option for Blanchester officials to consider is whether there’s another entity in Blanchester to go together with on space needs. McCarty noted the village of Jamestown in Greene County has its municipal building tied in with the public library there.
While speaking with commissioners, Hopkins raised another topic.
“I’ve noticed historically even before I got on Blan Council that in my opinion there’s not really a good communication line between Blanchester and the county and Wilmington. I would desperately like there to be one. In my opinion, there needs to be one — we’re the second largest municipality I think in Clinton County, so we need to have that,” said Hopkins.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.