Ephraim moves to battle blight
EPHRAIM—Ephraim City appears to be biting the bullet on a resolve to clean up blight, starting with a 20-unit trailer court on the west side and a graffiti-ridden motel on Main Street.
From there, inspectors and code enforcement officers will be addressing the rest of Main Street and then fanning out to the rest of the city, Brant Hanson, the city manager, told the city council and citizens at a meeting Sept. 7.
Eight days after the council meeting, an inspector and engineer from Sunrise Engineering of Fillmore, a firm the city has contracted with for building inspection and code enforcement assistance, were in town.
The Sunrise staff, along with the city manager, electrical superintendent, public works director and a member of the city council spent nearly three hours inspecting the troubled trailer court at 200 North and 200 West, and then moved on to the vacant Travel Inn at 330 N. Main., where they spent more than an hour.
While the officials didn’t say much during the inspection, the city council has openly discussed shutting down the trailer park. The council has also talked about condemning and demolishing the motel. The inspectors were undoubtedly looking at whether such actions are legally possible.
As of Tuesday, Sunrise Engineering was compiling a letter of findings, which it was expected to deliver to the city later in the week.
At the Sept. 7 meeting, the city council passed a resolution of support, the second one in September. The motion by Councilman Richard Wheeler said the council “supports the city staff in enforcement of city codes and in reviewing (existing) codes and bringing them up to date.”
“I think you’ve got all of our support,” Councilman John Scott said.
“Yes you do,” echoed Councilwoman Margie Anderson.
“I think we have to not dilly dally around in dealing with some of these issues,” Scott added. “…With all of these issues, we’ve got do to do some stuff now.”
Scott said more citizens had appeared at two council meetings in September to talk about code enforcement than to talk about any issue in the six years he’s been on the council. “It’s becoming an issue to the community,” he said.
Mayor Richard Squire cautioned that the city council needed to be committed to a change in code enforcement practices for the long haul.
“One thing you’ve got to be aware of is that there’s been a culture created in this city….We’re going to get kick-back to the city for a long time….So as long as your are committed in the long term, we will change that culture back to one of pride.”
Up to now, City Manager Hanson told the council, Ephraim has sent out enforcement officers only in response to complaints. Now, staff will start proactively visiting with owners of problem properties.
Besides the trailer park and motel, a couple of situations have been wakeup calls, Hanson said. One was a fire at an ill-kempt home that spread to adjacent homes. Another was a man who was keeping 90 feral cats.
Speaking of the feral cat situation, Hanson said, “We could have done somehting about that way before it got out of control. And we didn’t.”
Mayor Squire said the city can’t eat an elephant all at once. That’s why it is focusing first on the trailer park and motel, which officials say have the most glaring and potentially dangerous problems, then moving to Main Street, then the rest of the city.
We want to be proactive along Main Street because that’s our gateway,’ Hsnson said. And the city receives more complaints about Main Street than about any other location.
Six residents spoke out at the Sept. 7 meeting.
One was Dale Nicholls, who was a building inspector in Ephraim years ago, went on to become the Park City building inspector, and then retired in Ephraim.
“I’ve sat for 16 years and watched the city, and I just can’t believe what’s going on,” he said. “…If I were the building inspector for Ephraim City, that hotel would have been gone 15 years ago.”
Gail Gammel said she and a friend went to the abandoned motel and walked through it, room to room. “Because the plumbing isn’t working, there are areas where people have relieved themselves,” she said. “I don’t want this for the city I live in.”
From the motel, they drove around the city and took pictures. “And we found couches and old furniture and broken down cars and grass waist high. This isn’t the Ephraim I understand was here before I came.
Stacy Hermansen said she manages a complex housing 115 Snow College students. The house next door is occupied by a woman who is mentally ill. She has eaten out of dumpsters on the student complex property and may be violent, Hermansen said.
Her property is a fire hazard, and the safety of the 115 students in as stake. “I’ve taken pictures for the past 14 years,” Hermansen said. “I have approached the city.” But, she said, nothing has been done.