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Junk part of High Country landscape

Roger Peterson Leadville Correspondent

LEADVILLE – Despite some effort at resolution, the proliferation of trash and junk cars still top the list of code violations at the Lake County Department of Community Services.

Known as the “hot file” of items for follow up, department director Ron Newman said there are several active cases under investigation now.

“It’s everywhere, but I think it’s more visible in Lake County It is probably due to the lack of enforcement over the years,” Newman said.



A cursory review of the active files this week showed 19 violations for accumulation of trash, five of which are for addresses at Mt. Elbert Mobile Home Park. Also awaiting action are at least 12 complaints about non-functional automobiles.

One location was written up after 20 derelict vehicles were found there, and others were cited for 14, 13 and 11 junkers. Rounding out the complaint file were nine reports of structures not up to code or unsafe for habitation, four reports of stacked construction materials, three septic issues, a pair of abandoned motor homes and a person living in a shipping container. Many of the listings were reported on properties along U.S. Highway 24, south of Leadville.



Handling cases on a complaint basis, Newman said his office does a site visit once a grievance is received. Violators are asked to correct the problem within a specific time frame. If they believe they’re not in violation, they can meet with Lake County commissioners to discuss the resolution. If that fails, the county then can proceed with legal measures.

Former Lake County building inspector Larry Mason attended a recent board of county commissioners meeting to express his concern about trash and junk cars in the Malta area. It’s his second attempt, despite a unified effort by neighbors in 1997 to address the problem. Mason said the request for action was ignored by the then-seated county board.

“This is probably one of the most beautiful counties in Colorado. It’s a beautiful view up here, and it’s not right to trash it up. It’s not fair to the neighbors or the people of Lake County,” Mason said.



But it appears junk will continue to find its way into the county, and the complaints won’t stop, either.

One option is to employ full-time code enforcement officers. But with funds in short supply and a population for the most part apparently willing to live alongside junky neighbors, local governments might find better uses for funds and personnel.

“The ordinances are good, but we have never gotten past the notification stage,” Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte said. “The building department initiates it, but needs to follow up and send notices to the sheriff’s office. Until we get a complaint, we can’t act.”

Holte, whose deputies are currently investigating a single trash violation, said he likes the idea of a full-time code enforcement person. Communication needs to improve, the sheriff added.

“This is where the enforcement comes from. The ordinance is in place and it’s a simple process. We need to sit down with the commissioners and the building department, set up a game plan and follow it, but we don’t have that process in place yet.”


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