County Commission approves abatement of property

The Cole County Commission on Tuesday authorized officials to correct health code violations outside a Apache Flats home, but commissioners are looking for more direction as to how to deal with problems inside the home.

According to an August 2021 report presented by the county health department, the property at 314 Gateway Drive was found to have multiple health code violations such as trash, furniture and building materials laying around the property. Other violations included stagnant water, weeds, failure to maintain onsite sewage and improper storage vehicles.

The report states health officials talked with the property owner, listed as Nathaniel Nichols, in July 2021 about the problems.

According to the report, he told health officials at the time, “He would try and get it cleaned up — he just had to get motivated.”

They have made multiple visits since then and nothing appears to have ever been done to take care of the problems, the commission was told.

Health officials said they were also aware that conditions inside the home were similar to what they found outside and a noticeable smell or stench was coming from the property.Ryan Jacobs is a neighbor and told commissioners, “The smell is so bad we can’t open our windows.”

Health officials said the sheriff’s department has been called for other problems at the property and they believe squatters have been living on and off in the property.

Health Director Kristie Campbell said they can take care of the outside of the property with their abatement process, but that doesn’t allow them to deal with what could be on the inside. She said the property owner has left and there is no electricity or water service. Finance Director Debbie Malzner did a check and found taxes had been paid on the property.

“What we’ve been told is the mortgage company would like to foreclose, but they can’t because there are squatters in the home,” Campbell said.

Sheriff John Wheeler said he would work with County Attorney Jill LaHue and Prosecutor Locke Thompson to find a solution and come back to the commission next week.

Wheeler said they could use a similar procedure that they have when they serve search warrants for drug raids as way to get inside and find out what the conditions are.

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