Cummings came to the council to seek quick and aggressive help with
a problem in his Fourth Street neighborhood. He explained to the
council that there is a home in the community that is so infested
with cockroaches that the nasty insects are now making their way to
He said the home in question has been occupied
by people who didn't respect the property or the neighborhood. They
threw their trash on the ground outside their door and left it
there, making for an attractive gathering place for the roaches. He
added that those people, who are now gone, were believed to be drug
users. He saw evidence of beer containers thrown in the yard, as
well as other disturbing trash.
Cummings said one of the biggest contributors to the problem is
the landlord, who hasn't kept the place up and has allowed
less-than-reputable people to occupy the home.
But, to make matters worse, he said the roaches that occupy the
location by the thousands are now migrating to surrounding
properties. He noted that his 80-year-old neighbor goes outside to
his driveway in the evening and literally stomps 20 to 30 roaches at
a time, trying to keep them out of his home.
Cummings said the city needed to do something to help the
community with this terrible problem.
Mayor Keith Snyder asked John Lebegue, city zoning and safety
officer, to offer his comments on the situation, and Lebegue backed
up everything Cummings was saying.
Lebegue said he had been working on this problem for close to a
month. The first bit of positive news was that the people occupying
the home have moved out. The garbage has been cleaned up around the
property, and the house has been treated numerous times for the
The bad news is that so far, it is having very little effect.
Lebegue said the infestation is so bad the bugs are inside the walls
and ceiling of the house, as well as under the house, and can be
seen coming out of the foundation area.
Lebegue said the landlord lives in Tennessee and has been
notified that action is needed. The city has issued a no-occupancy
order on the house, and Lebegue said he had posted a placard on the
building to show that it has been condemned.
Lebegue said as he saw it, the property owner had two options:
either completely gut the house, removing the ceiling and walls,
then exterminate the roaches and rebuild; or tear the house down.
He said he'd given the owner 30 days to take action, and at the
moment that was the best he could do with the landowner. He said the
owner would have to make some kind of decision. The property as it
stands now isn't going to be rentable, so every day the landowner
lets the problem go, it is costing him revenue.
Beyond that, Lebegue said the property didn't fit into the
guidelines for fast-track demolition, so there was not a great deal
more his office would be able to do about the problem. He added that
had the property been eligible for fast track, he would have jumped
on getting it done as quickly as possible.
Melody Anderson asked if the Logan County Department of Public
Health had been contacted and if there any way that agency could
help with this problem. Lebegue said he had talked to the health
department, but because the house is in the city limits, the agency
cannot offer any assistance.
[to top of second column]
Sue McLaughlin asked why Lebegue had not issued a notice to
demolish the building. Lebegue said he didn't have a strong enough
case for demolition. She then wondered why he gave the landowner 30
days to act instead of 10. Lebegue said he didn't have anything
strong enough in the city code to enforce that.
Lebegue punctuated the situation by saying that he didn't think
the city of Lincoln has ever seen a problem this severe; therefore,
it has not been properly addressed in the city safety codes. He
needs stronger language in the codes for this problem so he can take
Kathy Horn wondered if the building had open windows and doors,
and if other critters were getting inside in addition to the
Lebegue said it was on his to-do list for Wednesday to further
inspect the building.
Tom O'Donohue asked what the city needed to do. He asked Lebegue:
"What do you need? Is there some tool we can give you?"
Lebegue said the city needs to author a code to deal specifically
with situations like this. Anderson then said that she wanted the
city to "fast track" such a code for Lebegue so this matter could be
dealt with as quickly as possible.
Cummings told the council he wanted to see the house gone. He
reiterated that the people who have been occupying the house are not
the kind he wants in his neighborhood. In addition, it was noted
this building where Cummings alleges drug users have been known to
live is right across the road from Carroll Catholic School.
Cummings also told the council that he has been involved with
Lebegue's work on the problem and that the zoning and safety officer
has been really good, but it was disturbing to see that Lebegue's
hands were tied to a certain degree.
Steve Messner was also in the galley to speak on this problem. He
told the council that he wasn't concerned so much for himself as he
was for his 80-year-old neighbor, Mr. Eimer. He said the Eimers are
very concerned about the bugs getting into their home. Messner
backed up what Cummings had said, saying the elderly gentleman is so
worried, he is outside all the time stomping the bugs in his
driveway, trying to keep them from coming to his home.
Messner also noted that not long ago, he was outside for a walk
with his granddaughters, and the girls actually had the roaches
crawl up on their feet and legs. Messner also noted in response to
Horn's earlier question that there are open windows in the house, so
other vermin are more than likely living inside.
He said he wanted to ask the council to please pass the
ordinances Lebegue needs to deal with the problem as quickly as
Mayor Keith Snyder responded by saying that he would now ask
McLaughlin, Lebegue and city attorney Blinn Bates to get on this
immediately and try to have something ready for the next voting
[By NILA SMITH]