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Neighborhood Sickened By Vacant Garbage House

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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POKEGEMA TOWNSHIP, Minn. (WCCO) — Lake Pokegema, a beautiful two-acre lot in Pine County, seems like somebody’s small chunk of paradise, until you’re hit by the awful sights and smells of rotting garbage.

“We’ve seen rats and coyotes out here — you name it,” said Mike Sullivan.

To Sullivan and his neighbors what they’re living next to is nothing short of a garbage dump.

“That’s exactly what it looks like and we have to put up with it every day,” said Sullivan.

Thirteen camping trailers, motor homes and junk cars on the property were filled to the brim with garbage. But when their former neighbor, John Sanders died recently, the metal shells of those vehicles were removed for scrap. To their dismay all the garbage was simply dumped into large piles on the ground.

Now, as the spring weather warms the stench of the rotting garbage and debris seems unbearable.

“I got out of my vehicle and I was going to get the mail and I literally got sick coming back to the house, it smelled so terrible,” Sullivan said.

Pokegema Township says it would like nothing more than to have the vacant property cleaned up, but legally, its hands are tied.

Sanders began cleaning it up in 2009, when the township took Sanders to court and received a judgment ordering him to remove the excess trailers and junk vehicles.

However, when Sanders died earlier this year, the bank which owned the mortgage on the property forgave the debt and washed its hands of the mess. That means without a will or legal heirs to assume ownership of the property, it will have to go through the probate process for anything to get done.

Neighbors fear that lengthy court process could take years to finalize.

“We do have respect and sympathy for the property owners as much as anybody in this township, but we have to go through the right steps to make sure it’s legal,” said zoning official Gordy Johnson.

Neighbors say the property is not only an eyesore, but a downright health threat, adding it’s a dangerous situation that simply can’t wait for court.

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