RANTOUL — Complaints about the condition of a neighbor’s house and the grounds at Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center were expressed at last week’s Rantoul Village Board study session.
Tyler Wilson, 1116 Englewood Drive, said the property next door to him at 1112 went to seed a long time ago and the village is doing nothing about it.
Debra Rawlings, a frequent user of the swimming pool, laments how the plant life bordering the area has not been properly maintained.
Englewood Drive house
Wilson said the neighboring house is abandoned, the owner lives in Ohio and because of that the village refuses to do anything about it.
He urged all trustees and city staff to look up the public ordinance subsection that deals with properties that endanger the public health and cause inconvenience, discomfort or blight to the neighborhood. Wilson said he daily files a written complaint with village code enforcement officials.
“Nothing has been done to hold this property owner accountable,” said Wilson, who noted he has an 11-year-old son with whom he plays catch and basketball outdoors and has seen the yard mowed only once this year.
“The gutters are full; there’s a hole in the side of the garage you could drive your car through. There are numerous raccoons, possums, skunks, snakes, mice feral cats and who knows what else going in and out of this property, and nothing is being done.”
Wilson said the bushes have never been trimmed in the four years he has lived next door.
“The gutters are full of debris and in the wet times breed mosquitoes due to the fact that they do not properly function. There are piles of brush in the back yard, and now a tree has fallen in the back yard as well.”
Wilson said village ordinance indicates the village can charge the owner of the property found in violation $75 to $750 per day, which he said amounts to more than $27,000.
Wilson said he has been told by numerous residents and village employees “this fight is uncalled for.”
“You don’t have to live next to it. I do,” he said. “The village’s legal team needs to do its job. If you lived next to this, would it have already been cleaned up? If your kids had to grow up next to this, would it have been cleaned up? I think it would have.”
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said there is a legal process the village has to follow before it can mow the property.
“We are in the midst of that legal process at this time,” Eisenhauer said.
Swimming pool landscaping
Rawlings, who said she swims regularly at the pool, decried the village letting the plantings around the pool go downhill.
“It is such a peaceful and beautiful place to swim,” Rawlings said, “but it is not as beautiful as it used to be.”
She said grass has grown through the mulch, volunteer trees have penetrated decorative grasses, sections of the post-and-rope fence have rotted or have been removed and never replaced. Some of the plantings are gone entirely, she said.
“The day lilies need to be divided. The grasses are probably also ready for dividing. One clump of grasses is dead. But worst of all, bindweed is choking plantings all along the west side of the pool.”
Rawlings said bindweed is a “highly invasive plant” that can send roots 20 feet below ground” and said the only effective way to deal with it is herbicide.
She said she was told a landscaping company previously performed landscape maintenance at the pool, but it has now been turned over to pool staff. If that is true, she said, that is not the job of pool staff because it is too time-consuming and “requires specialized knowledge and a license to apply herbicides.”
At the least, she said, the bindweed should be controlled.
Rawlings presented two requests
One is that each trustee, the mayor and administrator visit the aquatic center to view the landscaping and compare it to when it was first opened and to ask themselves if they would be satisfied with this type of landscaping at their own homes.
The second is that a plan be developed to restore the landscaping to its original beauty and that a preliminary plan be made public within 30 days.
“A budget cut is not a plan,” Rawlings said. “A budget cut is a reaction. It seems to me that when the village collects taxpayer funds to build such a facility that there is an implied contract with the community to maintain that facility at a minimum to the standards to which the facility was built.
“I’m a gardener. A landscape is a living being, and you are letting it die.”