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Woman charged for unfit dwelling

Friday, September 19, 2003

An old truck was burned and sets rusting in what used to be a garage at 1626 N. Meridian St. Much of the trash, old tires and a washer and dryer are partly hidden by the weeds, brush and trees around and through the demolished ruins.

Criminal charges were filed against Rena A. Morlan in Clay Superior Court on Sept. 3, for maintaining a dwelling unfit for human habitation. The house at 1626 N. Meridian St. caught fire more than two years ago. The garage was destroyed and the house received significant damage.

Morlan, who now resides on Central Ave., did not repair or remove the structure after repeated notice by Clay County Health Department Environmental Specialist Bill Hale.

"When people refuse to cooperate, I have to turn it over to the courts," Hale said.

Two specific statutory violations support the charges against her. Indiana Code 16-41-20-6 states that ...the local board of health may declare a dwelling that is unfit for human habitation a public nuisance...and may order to be removed... IC 16-41-20-7 says the local board of health may order purified, cleansed, disinfected, renewed repaired or improved a dwelling ... found to be unfit for human habitation or the dwelling's lot.

The garage roof and part of the walls have fallen leaving damaged and unstable wall fragments still standing. There are copious amounts of trash, a rusted out truck, old tires, even a washer and dryer.

The large amount of trash strewn about the yard is not readily noticeable from a distance because of weeds, brush, and trees, some as high as eight feet tall, growing around, over and through the devastation.

Hale notified Morlan on Oct. 31, 2002, and April 3, to clean up the property. She informed Hale last December that she would get the property taken care of by the first of the year. However, no action has been taken.

Hale said his office continues to receive numerous complaints and phone calls regarding the property and its condition.

"The house sets just outside the Brazil city limits," Hale said. "So the city has no jurisdiction over it. But it is still in a populated residential area and near a church."

During one inspection, Hale said he saw rats and a raccoon on the property. And it's definitely a breeding ground for mosquitos.

An initial hearing has been set for Nov. 10, in Superior Court. Morlan was unable to be reached for comment.

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