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If junk heapers don't fret jail, then what?

Stephen J. Hummel has paid hundreds of dollars in fines and spent 10 days in the county jail, but the heap of court-declared junk is still there.

Stacks of old tires, a nonrunning car, piles of auto parts, empty crates and other debris spill out of the carport and into the driveway of Hummel's Telogia Court home off Mile Stretch Drive.

Code enforcement officers issued citations and a judge repeatedly ordered Hummel, 46, to clean up or face fines or jail time. Now that none of that has worked, officials wonder what they should do next.

That's the question today before the County Commission, which will discuss options for handling several no-end-in-sight code enforcement cases like Hummel's.

Assistant County Attorney Kristi Wooden has suggested two options that would allow county-hired crews to clean up the property and charge the offender for the work:

+ File a lawsuit asking a judge to order the person to clean up the mess by a specific date. If the person fails to do so, the judge could allow the county to go onto the property to clean it up.

+ Write a new citation and ask a judge to order the person to clean up the mess. If that fails, the judge could allow the county to clean up the property.

"What we have suggested is a process where we would get together with code enforcement supervisors and the county administrator, look at the facts and say, "Is this a case that we want to take this far?' " Wooden said. "If it is, which way do we want to go?"

In addition to hiring a contractor to haul away the items, the county would have to document each item that is removed "in order to avoid or defend later claims by the defendant that the wrong items were discarded," Wooden wrote in a memo to commissioners.

Hummel's case is one of several that raised the issue, Wooden said. Hummel was not available Monday, and a woman at the home declined to comment.

One of the other cases involves Silvio Rosalen, the 63-year-old New Port Richey man who made headlines last year as one of the first people to go to jail under the county's revamped code enforcement system.

Despite a cleanup effort led by County Commissioner Peter Altman, Rosalen's back yard remains a mess, Wooden said.

"It's possible a jail term would encourage somebody not to put themselves in that position again," Wooden said. "But I'm not sure that will work in every case."

Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bhallsptimes.com.

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