Heartland Eyesores: Busy Bollinger Co. intersection

BOLLINGER COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Drive past the intersection of Highway 34 and County Road 820 in Bollinger County and it's hard to miss.

"If UPS wants to find County Road 820 all you have to do is tell them to look for the trash house and they know where to turn," said neighbor Randy Green.

The house and surrounding property he's referring to belongs to Jeff Howard. Bollinger County Sheriff Leo McElrath took me out to meet Howard, and Howard agreed to talk.

"We've got a little bit left to do, but nothing really major," Howard said as he stood in front of a house covered in plastic due to recent storm damage.

His yard is taken up by numerous small dogs, trash, furniture, and a giant inflatable swimming pool.

Given that description, Howard's opinion that there's "nothing really major" left to do out here may surprise you.

But, Sheriff McElrath assures me it used to be much worse out here.

"Patience is a virtue, you know?" McElrath said. "And he has done what we've asked him to do. But, I think right now, it's a lot better than it ever was."

McElrath says in the past, Howard's junk forced his vehicles out far enough to block the view at 34/820 intersection.

Even though county living means no zoning so no rules, the sheriff has taken a personal interest in Howard's property because he knows it's got a lot of people upset.

"It's an ugly eyesore," Randy Green said. "There's trash piled everywhere and has been for a long time."

Green and his wife, Donna, live on a beautiful, sprawling property behind the Howard's property.

"And their trash, every time it rains their trash ends up in my pond," Green said.

"And you're aware of a sewage issue?" I asked.

"Yes, there's a sewage violation," Green responded.

Green knows about the sewage violation because he made the complaint.  Environmental Health Specialist Steve Yates confirms Howard has a faulty sewage system that needs to be replaced.

Yates says Howard is cooperating so he'll be given time to comply.

"$3,500 doesn't seem like a lot for a septic tank and everything, but it is when you live on a fixed income," Howard said in reference to the sewage system.

And then, Howard raises another concern that catches me off guard.

"Well, it's a community where nobody really wants to help anybody because it's so small," Howard said of where he lives.

Despite the history of his property's condition, and Howard's opinion that there's not much left to do, he says if people would offer to help him clean up, he'd clean up.

Sheriff McElrath quickly moves in to help make that happen, offering to coordinate a clean up effort through his office.

"I think they should so their community support and rather than just complain about a problem, show what they can do to help alleviate it," he told both me and Howard.

"I'd appreciate it," Howard says of the help. "Because I don't know where to take any of the tires."

The tires in front of Howard's home, and the ones in the woods behind his house, are included in an illegal disposal investigation report sent to him by the Department of Natural Resources.

Like the sewage complaint, the report indicates Howard needs to clean up in a reasonable amount of time, but does not give him a deadline.

I tried several times to talk to DNR Environmental Specialist Glen Gearhart about the Howard complaint, but was unable to reach him.

I took the news of a possible clean up effort back to neighbor Randy Green.

"Are you any more confident, as we stand here, that by drawing attention to this it may get better?" I asked.

"It may, but I don't hold a great deal of hope for that," Green answered.

Before I leave Jeff Howard, I ask this final question.

"When you look around at your property are you satisfied with how it looks, or are you upset by it?"

"I'm glad it's cleaned up," he answers, "but I got a lot more to do."

Sheriff McElrath says anyone interested in helping clean up the Howard property can contact him at 573-238-2633.

In the meantime, I will keep you posted on the sewage and environmental complaints, along with any changes out there.

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