Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Suess pushes for fix on junk cars


September 6, 2018 | View PDF

Steptoe resident Kirk Suess requested time to speak to county commissioners Tuesday and came in with a couple things on his mind.

He opened with one.

“The old state highway through Steptoe is in drastic need of some attention,” Suess said. “It’s got some serious potholes.”

He continued.

“The road is in horrendous shape,” he said.

Mark Storey, Public Works director, sitting in the seats nearby, said that he’ll go take a look at it.

“I’d like to hear someone say we’ll fix it,” Suess said.

Storey explained that potholes on the road were fixed two years ago and a road superintendent oversees each part of the county.

“You patch it, and it comes back again,” Storey said.

“It needs to be on the schedule,” said Suess.

He then moved into his second matter.

“The collection of unsightly automobiles, with hoods up on some of them,” said Suess. “Why can’t we have an ordinance for unincorporated towns for this?”

Commissioner Art Swannack answered and discussion ensued as Suess’ testimony continued.

“A good, silent majority would like these vehicles gone, especially on a state highway,” said Suess.

“You’re the only individual that we’ve heard from on this matter,” Swannack said.

“We need more than just one person coming in to address the issue,” said Commissioner Dean Kinzer.

“How many people do I need to bring in, is five enough?” Suess asked.

More discussion followed.

“I think there’s a limit to what we’re willing to do on people’s property, outside the government,” said Swannack.. “Some of it is just how people want to live, Kirk.”

Swannack laid out some of the parameters of when ordinances are passed.

“Environmental health can get involved if there’s a health problem affecting people outside the property,” he said.

“It sounds like I could bring 150 people and you’d say the same thing,” Suess answered.

Clarification ensued, with commissioners saying they would consider all input.

“Do I need signatures, or bodies?” Suess asked.

Comment continued.

“If you can limit livestock, why is it we can’t limit junk vehicles?” Suess said.

Storey indicated that the board of commissioners could ultimately ask the planning commission to consider the matter. In this case, the planning commission might evaluate the issue, hold public hearings and later make a recommendation to commissioners.

“I’ll see you gentlemen again in another 30 days, and I’ll bring the signatures,” said Suess.

Finishing up, he noted cars at a Steptoe property along the turn-off from Highway 195 toward St. John, saying that some Sprint boat fans go by it twice per summer on their way to Webb’s Slough.

“I am sure you men don’t want the county advertised like that,” Suess said.

Commissioner Michael Largent then spoke.

“I’m personally uncertain of my powers in this, also the unintended consequences of an ordinance like this. But I would not dispute abandoned cars are unsightly.

“Every time you do a zoning, you’re affecting someone’s rights,” Largent said.

In the fall of 2016, after Suess spoke to commissioners on the matter of junk cars and yard debris, the Steptoe Fire Department sponsored a large construction dumpster to be brought in for solid waste, during Whitman County’s annual week of discounted rates at the waste transfer station.

“People just cleaned out their garages,” Suess said of the effort. “That got to the inside, but not the outside.”

Discussion then concluded.

“I’m gonna live a long time, I’m not gonna run out of an annual opportunity to come in and do this,” Suess said.


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