NEW ALBANY — Floyd County attorney Rick Fox and homeowner Jarrett Hamilton were back in court Tuesday, concerning the property at 519 Hausfeldt Lane.
It has become familiar territory. For two years both sides have argued their case in front of Special Judge Richard Striegel or Superior Court I Judge Susan Orth and last October, the county won a big victory when Striegel ruled that debris and trash could be removed from the house and the property. The property was cleared by CCE Inc. for $24,600.
More rulings went in the county's favor Tuesday.
After two hours of testimony and debate, Orth ruled that the 14 cars on the property could be towed immediately. She also ruled for an injunction prohibiting Hamilton from stacking items in the yard and house in the future and that a judgment be placed on the property for the $36,000 spent by the county for cleanup and attorney fees. Also, until needed repairs are made on the home, it is viewed inhabitable by the Floyd County Health Department.
Hamilton was displeased with the ruling.
He had to be told more than once by Orth to not make comments out of turn and when addressing witnesses, to ask questions.
"If you continue to disrupt this court you will be held in contempt," she said. "You don't have to respect me, but you have to respect the robe."
Hamilton once again represented himself. He asked for a continuance at the beginning of the hearing in hopes, he said, of hiring an attorney to represent him, but that motion was denied. Fox, who also represented the health department, said there was a long list of continuances over the past two years and that Hamilton has always represented himself despite saying he was going to hire a lawyer. He said it was nothing more than a stall tactic.
Three witnesses testified as to the condition of the house, and the vehicles parked on the property.
Barry Dyer, owner of WIN Home Inspection, recently inspected the house and said it was "filthy." He said there was fungus growing on the walls, furniture and crawl space, and that there was no water or electricity. He said the roof needed replaced, and that it would take major repairs by professionals to make the house livable again.
"I have inspected around 4,000 houses and this was one of the dirtiest homes I've seen," Dyer said. When asked if he thought the house was liveable now, he said "no."
During cross examination Hamilton said he has not lived at the house for more than a year, and has been banned from the property, so he was not sure what was going on with its condition.
"I've seen the roof, it isn't worn out. There is one shingle missing," Hamilton said. "This is unbelievable. I don't know what happened in the house in a year. The water and electricity are turned off because I am not living there. I can't afford to keep the house up that I am not living in."
Thomas Snider, an environmentalist with the Floyd County Health Department, inspected the home Dec. 7. He said there were mice feces throughout the house. He said there also "appeared to be human waste around the toilet."
But Hamilton once again said no one has lived in the house for a year and that would be impossible.
"I haven't been in there for a year, so I don't know what has happened," he said. "My understanding is everybody and their brother has been in there."
Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop also testified that he tagged and researched the 14 cars parked on the property. Fox said under state statute, the cars could be towed since they were all three years old or older, had been in public sight for more than 20 days, and were mechanically inoperable. Loop said none were registered in Indiana or Kentucky, or had updated license plates.
He said he had a deal worked out to have the cars towed to Prosser, but was unable to reach Hamilton to discuss the matter despite numerous attempts to reach him at a local apartment complex.
Loop also said the cars were full of "junk," most if not all had flat tires, and they should be removed from the property.
Hamilton said Loop could not confirm the cars were mechanically inoperable since he didn't try to start them. Loop said that is another reason why he wanted to contact Hamilton, to get the keys to try and start the vehicles.
"How can you know the cars don't run? Can you tell by looking at them?" Hamilton asked Loop.
"I don't know if they are inoperable. You didn't contact me," Loop answered.
Hamilton said the cars are worth $25,000 and he was not interested in donating them "to a bunch of kids." Loop said he valued the cars at a much lower figure — $1,000. Hamilton also said most of the cars were in the back yard and were moved out front to be in view of the neighbors by the county.
Hamilton also wanted an itemized list of his property that was taken away by CCE Inc., and said his house was zoned light industrial, which gave him the right to park cars on it. However, Orth said that was not what was before her Tuesday.
The issue surrounding the house has been going on since 2012. The city actually cleaned up the property twice, in 2013 and 2015, and Hamilton filed a federal lawsuit against the city for its removal of vehicles. The city also filed a lawsuit against Hamilton in July 2017 for the condition of the property and that he was using it as a "junkyard."
On Feb. 8, 2017, Orth ordered Hamilton to vacate the residence "until such time that the respondent provides and gets approval by [Health Department and County attorney] Richard R. Fox or this Court, of a plan to abate the property." Fox said no plan was ever submitted.