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Blake Hansen wears many hats in Vinton. His official title is Building Inspector|Code Enforcement Officer|Flood Plain Manager. He spoke to area Kiwanis about the progress made in Vinton. Over the last two years, Hansen has been in charge of reminding residents of the ordinances in Vinton.

One of the largest successes has been the clean-up of cars in the city. With more than 100 junk vehicles being removed that has improved the look of the town. Cars that sit in yards are often homes to raccoons, mice and other varmints that aren't the kind of residents that Vinton wants to attract.

The largest project that has been completed has been the demolition of the old steam plant on the west edge of town. The building was dangerous from years of neglect and had collapsed in areas. After an extreme amount of effort by Hansen, a resolution was finally reached and the plant was removed. The land now has the potential to be used in a more productive way.

Working with the owners of the Seed House, he is encouraging the removal of the one-story buildings that have been attached to the original structure. The idea is that it will help the owners to be able to better manage the main structure bringing it up to code, or that it would. make it more appealing to a buyer.

Another large structure he talked about was the old East School building. Since the school moved out of the structure it fell into the hands of several people who could not maintain the structure. Hansen said first a church, bought it then sold it to a scrapper who stripped all of the plumbing, wiring and tin ceilings from the building, removing the metal fire escapes with a truck and a chain. The roof has holes in it causing more damage from the elements, and now the outside is crumbling. He is in the process of trying to find a solution to remove the structure so that the land could be used for the construction of homes. He said, "It's sad to see it go, but it's outlived its useful life."

He's also been investigating the flooding that happens in the "Frog Flats" area of town, the southern section near the B.L. Anderson Park/Tilford area. He's been communicating with the DNR and FEMA to see if there is any further mitigation that can be done. The water retention pond at the intersection of Highways 150 and 218 is helping with this. He'd like to see more done in that area to make it more appealing and useful with perhaps a trail or something around it and possibly adding some native plants and grasses. He said that this might just be a dream, but it's something that he's hoping can be accomplished.

He is working on a plan now for rental properties that he hopes to present to the council in the next few months.. The city does not currently have a rental code. He plans to work with landlords and tenants to see what they'd like to see done with this.

The simpler tasks that he faces are enforcing lawn care in the warm weather and snow removal in the winter. He would like to get a program started that would link elderly or disabled residents with able-bodied volunteers, a sort of "buddy program." Sometimes owners aren't physically able to maintain their property and this brings another issue to Hansen's attention.

He said that sometimes when residents reach a certain stage of life it's not fair to take a struggling person and cause more struggles for them. He does encourage those in need to reach out to their churches and local organization to find ways that don't place a financial burden on them.

Those who own the property are responsible for clearing walks, and if they are able-bodied and are not, the city will clear it but send a bill for the snow removal. The bill will be collected via various means.

He also helps residents with building questions and complaints. He said that there is a form on the city's website for complaints if it's needed. He doesn't have a lot of those come in, he said maybe a handful every month. (The form can be found HERE.)

While there shouldn't be safety concerns for Hansen, he does have concerns about his safety. He said people have sentimental attachments to old cars or belongings on their property and will fight to keep it.

Barking dogs and stray cats are an issue. If he gets a complaint during the day about barking dogs he will contact the owner, at night the police deal with it. Cats are a problem in certain areas of town.

Part of Hansen's job is also answering questions. For example, if you ask if you can have a therapy skunk in town...yes, he had to answer that question recently. You'd think this would be obvious, but that is why we need a guy like Hansen. Apparently, it needs to be said, and he's the guy that has to explain these things. "Skunks," Hansen said, "are on the dangerous and forbidden animal list. So, no skunks."


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DH January 29, 2023, 10:10 am KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK , BLAKE!
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