Between 40 and 50 people packed the Jasper County Commissioners' office at the Courthouse in Carthage to voice their opinion on a proposed public nuisance ordinance for rural areas of the county.
It was the third Tuesday in a row where people have come to talk about the controversial and despite a majority of the people in the office on Tuesday being opposed to it, the three commissioners voted unanimously to enact the ordinance.
About two-thirds of the people in the room spoke out against the proposal, citing their right to do what they wanted on their private property.
The other third spoke out in favor of it, saying nuisances, trash and junk on neighboring property have reduced their quality of life, property values and their own rights to their property.
Western District Commissioner Darieus Adams made the motion to adopt the ordinance, saying people should not consider it a threat to their property rights.
“I feel like it's my obligation to help everybody, that's why you all elected me,” Adams said at the end of the 45-minute public hearing. “I hope you don't see this as a threat, all this is is an opportunity to help the people who need help. The best thing in the world that could happen is you all get together and help take care of each other and we get it cleaned up. That would be perfect. If we didn't have to write a citation one, that's a perfect ordinance. I don't want you to go away thinking this is a threat. But I do believe that people in Jasper County need help and this is a way we can help them.”
Commissioner Jim Honey said the ordinance is a way the county can help people who have dealt with neighbors who have refused to clean up their property, sometimes for years.
“We've had people . . . come talk to us year in and year out and we've sat here and said we can't help you,” Honey said. “We have no mechanism to do anything. We're not here to be dictators, I live in the country also and I see it every day. The health department will not be dictators, we're not going to go out and drive the roads and look for things to do. We're not going to be picking and choosing places to go out and pick things.”
That didn't satisfy some people at the meeting, who said they felt they had wasted their time coming and speaking out.
“It was a waste of my time because they had already made up their mind,” said Gary Wampler, rural Jasper County, after the final vote. “Nobody cares. It didn't do any good to speak up. My rights were taken away.”
Page 2 of 3 - During the meeting, Wampler said he thought the county was “taking my human rights away from me,” by considering the ordinance.
“The government has taken enough, you guys don't need to be getting involved,” Wampler said. “You all ought to put it to a vote. Yeah, we've got a few individual cases, but when we hired you guys, there's no limit to what you can do to us. I don't care what you say here today, if you decide you want to get stricter and stricter, you will. So my human rights are being stepped on and you should have brought it to a vote.”
Ben Baugh, rural Jasper County, said he felt the county was using scare tactics to push the ordinance.
“It won't be me that feels the affects of this, it'll be my grandkids, it'll be my kids on down the road,” he said. “There's no rat problem in Jasper County. I've called the health department, the health department says there is no rat problem. This was thrown out there, I believe, as a scare tactic for everybody.”
Evelyn Redwine, who has attended all three public meetings calling for passage of the ordinance, said she's had to live in Asbury, next door to someone who has refused to clean up his property for more than 20 years, and no one with the Asbury city government or the county has been able to help.
Assistant County Attorney Norman Rouse said the county's ordinance will apply in Asbury if the city adopts the measure.
When someone in the audience shouted out that Redwine should move, she said the neighbor's trash had made it impossible for her to sell her property. She also asked why she should be the one who has to move.
Another who spoke in favor of the ordinance was Darlene Loffus, who said she's lived in her home for more than 40 years.
“Where do you want me to start?” she said. “It's been going on for four years and the last two have been just miserable. He's got about two acres and they haul in about every old junk car there is and it's probably about this far from the edge of my porch and garage where my privacy fence is to hide all this stuff. A person shouldn't have to put up with that. And I have asthma and when he burns and lets it smolder for a couple of days, I'm sick in bed. He burns those plastic milk bottles, milk jugs and car seats and all that stuff, he shouldn't be allowed to burn that.”
Loffus said she appreciates people talking about personal freedom, but “I have freedom too.”
Page 3 of 3 - “You don't need to throw stuff,” Loffus said. “Start at the beginning to be clean and keep it clean. People like me have just as much right as people someone who wants to live out there and be dirty.”