Monday, January 14, 2013

150 Acres of Fire Hazard

Speech to the Josephine County Commissioners, 1/12/2011.   

Yesterday, KAJO had the City of Grants Pass in for their monthly talk show, so I called and asked what was happening with the cleanup of the city’s abandoned orchard.  City Manager Laurel Sampson managed to prove that she hadn’t heard or read a word I’d spoken or written to the City for the last month in two speeches to the Council and one to you, though all three were sent to her by e-mail, and she sat through the speeches to the Council. 
This is why we need an elected Mayor/Manager in Grants Pass; a hired manager cares only about the opinion of her staff and Council, and sometimes not even the Council.  She certainly doesn’t care about anything a mere citizen has to say; this one doesn’t even let one’s words linger in her head long enough to think about them.  After all, it is the Council that pays for her deliberate ignorance; if they don’t care, why should she?  I’ve seen much more concern about this issue from this Board than the City Council or its staff.
As my daughter and I were driving past the City’s abandoned orchard on our way to dump a load of trimmings at Southern Oregon Compost, she exclaimed that the orchard looks really bad; it looks like it could easily burn this summer.  On the way back, we stopped to take a good look at the portion where it comes closest to town along Upper River Road.  The weeds were thick and about 3 feet high between the trees; it certainly could burn.  With all those treated poles and suspended plastic irrigation line, it is quite a health hazard, as well as a fire hazard. 
The City’s neglected pear orchard is no longer just a disease and pest hazard to pear and apple growers in Josephine County and perhaps Jackson County as well.  It’s not just a base for noxious weeds, as the City’s properties within the City are.  It has become exactly the kind of fire hazard that the City abates or threatens to when a private home is neglected too long inside the city.
I believe that this County also has abatement powers related to noxious weeds and fire hazards, even though we may not have the money.  If not, we should pass an emergency ordinance; this hazard needs to be cleaned up before fire season. 
The City has the money to clean up its mess.  When a property inside the City becomes a health and safety hazard, the City tells the owner to clean it up or the City will.  The City says that they don’t work cheap, and they charge 20% extra for administration.  We should tell the City exactly what they tell errant homeowners: to clean up their mess or we will, and they will pay for it.

Published at Yahoo Voices under Land and Liability #8.

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