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BEYOND BLIGHT

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

An abandoned house owned by an alleged felon has become a rat-infested dumping ground - angering neighbors for more than eight months.

Tires, foam board from packaged meat, empty soup cans, torn open bags of household garbage, a shredded and stained mattress -among other things,have been dumped in and around the house.

This is beyond blight! said Dianna Gallegos, owner of the house next door at 747 Meridian.

She and her friend John Hopkins called the police Tuesday when a man, Billy Lacy, came to the abandoned house to dump more trash there.

He showed up driving a riding lawn mower towing a truck trailer full of garbage. And he just dumped it! Gallegos said.

But Lacy is not the owner of the house. Gordon Henry Jones, who is wanted by the Del Norte County Sheriffs Department, is. Jones has a warrant for his arrest on four felonies.

The warrant was issued last year. Two years ago, Jones was arrested for knowingly accepting and selling stolen goods. And according to the Del Norte County Tax Collector, Jones, 46, has failed to pay property taxes since 1996. Currently, his whereabouts are unknown.

When neighbor Hopkins approached the men dumping garbage at the house, he said the men claimed to have permission from Jones to stay on the property.

Hopkins called the sheriffs department. An officer arrived to question Lacy, but no arrest was made.

Weve called the sheriffs department on a regular basis for the past three or four months, Gallegos said. No arrests were ever made and no improvements were made to the property.

They say their hands are tied. What are my taxes buying me? How come that guy dumping garbage next door has more rights than I do? Gallegos said.

Out of frustration, Gallegos called Del Norte County Supervisor Jack Reese, yesterday. She said Reese came out immediately to inspect the state of the abandoned house.

He said he was sick to his stomach from the sight of it, Gallegos said and added that Reese promised to call the County Health Department.

Reese was unavailable for comment.

The house has broken windows, makeshift doors that wont close and a roof appearing to be near collapse.

Three officials did arrive from the Health Department Wednesday afternoon. The officials did not give their names but said they will present a report to the countys attorney, Robert Black, to determine a course of action.

Commander Tony Luis of the sheriffs department said they will work with the Health Department to help solve the problem.

The countys blight ordinance may be the tool officials will use on this house, according to the men representing the Health Department. Though, County Administrative Officer Ben Angove believes there may be a faster way to abate the problem - following the process of the blight ordinance can take several months.

It wouldnt necessarily be the blight ordinance that wed use. When we identify something thats truly a health hazard, we can tell the owner to clean it up or well do it for him and put a lien on the house, Angove said.

A hearing would still have to occur to determine what action should be taken to remove the hazard, but because officials do not know how to locate Jones, Angove said the county may be able to take action soon.

Once were convinced the property owner is not going to deal with it, we can hire someone to take the stuff to the landfill, Angove said.

The abandoned house is flanked on both sides by well kept homes.

Hopkins and Gallegos refurbished their home and landscaped the yard.

The two moved to Crescent City last April from Sacramento.

Im proud to be a homeowner here.

We have beautiful mountains, beautiful beaches. But, why does it take so long to clean up these messes? People here just dont want to be bothered - or tell you that the emperor has no clothes, Gallegos said.

After months of calling the sheriffs department and not getting the garbage, or the transients staying there, removed, Hopkins and Gallegos said they had to build a $250 fence to block the view.

Im concerned about the children who play around here. One of these days, theyre going to find a dead baby in there, and it wont be because I didnt cry wolf, she added.

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