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Junk-strewn yard cleaned by Grand Forks Health Department contractor

Mark Spivack strode across a half-cleaned backyard that was still strewn with junk Thursday, from bottles and cans to a bicycle tire to a dirty, green car that looked to be from the 1970s.

Grand Forks Public Health Inspector Richard Klockmann stands in the middle of Donald Masse's property during cleanup Monday morning. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
Grand Forks Public Health Inspector Richard Klockmann stands in the middle of Donald Masse's property during cleanup Monday morning. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

Mark Spivack strode across a half-cleaned backyard that was still strewn with junk Thursday, from bottles and cans to a bicycle tire to a dirty, green car that looked to be from the 1970s.

"Do you want us to get the stuff off the roof?" he asked, looking over toward a backyard shed. "Because we didn't bring a ladder."

Spivack was part of a team of contractors from Steamatic Restoration and Cleaning who were hired by Grand Forks Public Health to clean the yard of Donald Masse, 610 S. Ninth St. The cleaning was the culmination an abatement process at a property that has been cluttered for years. The costs, expected to be billed to Masse, are estimated to run in excess of $2,500.

Richard Klockmann, a environmental health specialist with the Health Department, spoke to the Herald shortly after 10:30 a.m. as the yard was being cleaned. He said Masse wasn't on the property when a Herald reporter arrived, but had made requests that morning that tools such as a lawnmower or other implements not be thrown away, which Klockmann said were being honored. He said that a large dumpster full of junk had already been hauled off, and crews were working on a second. The car, he said, would likely be towed away later.

Ron Pruett, Masse's next-door neighbor, was elated at the sight of contractors cleaning the property. He moved in during the winter several years ago without realizing the extent of the junk collection nearby. He said that, on breezy days, he's previously caught an unpleasant smell wafting over from the nearby property.

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"It feels good that somebody is cleaning it up and he's being billed for it," Pruett said. "He's getting a repercussion."
Though Klockmann said Grand Forks Police had been present for a portion of the cleaning that morning, he pointed out that Masse had obeyed a court stipulation not to interfere with the cleaning process. That's important, because it's one of two conditions that keep a Grand Forks Municipal Court fine against him suspended. If Masse were to interfere in the cleaning process or allow his yard to violate the city's junk ordinance prior to July, he could be hit with up to $52,000 in fines.

That $52,000 is a suspended portion of a $53,000 fine levied against him earlier this year for violating the city's junk accumulation ordinance. Though he briefly fell behind on payment on the $1,000 he was asked to pay in July, he has since paid that amount.

The property cleaning isn't the first for Masse. In August 2015, volunteers banded together to help him clean his property, hauling out more than 24,000 pounds of junk .

"I screwed up and they fixed it," Masse said in the early evening, standing among a mostly cleaned yard-and he said he's keeping it that way.

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS PUBLIC HEALTH
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