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City leaders plan to address homeowners who fail to fix condemned properties

New City Administrator: "We will make progress"
Condemned Properties
Posted at 5:35 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 10:47:39-05

WALSENBURG — Back in 2020, Greg Sund served as Walsenburg's City Administrator. He assured the public he would work to cleanup or tear down dangerous, dilapidated homes.

Greg Sund
Greg Sund, Fmr. City Administrator (2020 interview)

More than a year after Sund made that commitment on-camera, homeowners tell News 5 that promise wasn't kept.

Homeowners say condemned houses are not only an eye sore, but they're concerned about neighborhood property values.

Collapsed roof
Collapsed Roof

During our October 2020 interview, Sund said there had not been much code enforcement done to address multiple unsafe properties---some of which had collapsing roofs or transients inside. At the time, Sund said he was developing a plan to launch a program to get distressed properties either torn down and rebuilt, or rehabilitated.

"You're confident you're moving in the right direction," Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross asked Sund. "I shouldn't be revisiting this 6 months from now? We're going to see some progress?"

"I would certainly hope we have it operating well before that," Sund said. "I don't want a program to stall. I think it's important you move forward and adopt what works for the community and achieve things. If you're not making progress, the public will see that too."

When it came time for a follow-up report on the city's progress, News 5 learned Sund had resigned from his city position.

We eventually caught up with his replacement---Dustin Stambaugh.

Dustin Stambaugh
Dustin Stambaugh, City Administrator

"A year and a half ago I sat down with the City Administrator and he assured us they were going to make some progress on the condemnation list," Ross told Stambaugh. "Reviewing records today, it appears there's been no progress on that? Am I wrong?"

"I cannot deny that," he said. " In January 2020, it was my understanding that council stopped condemnations."

He says the previous Mayor felt it was too expensive to try to rehab or demolish properties which city records show have partially collapsed. In a few cases, city records report transients are living inside condemned properties.

"Some of these homes look in bad shape and people are living in them," Ross told Stambaugh. "Let's say the roof caves in or a wall caves in and the city does absolutely nothing, is there any risk (or liability) on the city's behalf?"

"Yes and it's a problem we need to confront," he said. "The fact is those were listed as condemnation properties at the point you talked to us (in 2020) and that list has not changed. I can't deny that, but I continue to re-direct to what we are doing now to show you that we are making progress."

Hole in roof
Hole in the roof of a home in Walsenburg

Stambaugh says he's working on establishing a "due process" system for homeowners who have shown zero progress. Part of that "due process" involves creating an appeals board to hear directly from those property owners.

"One of the problems we've had is we don't have an appeals board to execute nuisances and violations," Stambaugh said. "We can issue a violation to somebody, and all they have to do is appeal and if you don't have an appeals board, then it just sits there."

While this task is being worked on, Stambaugh wanted to let the public know that they haven't just been sitting around doing nothing in the city administration building.

He says behind the scenes, he has prioritized other urgent projects like improving the city's aging water treatment plant.

Water Supply entrance
Water supply entrance

He says when he took office a little more than a year ago, he entered a city with a lot of problems.

Walsenburg
Walsenburg city employees

"Over half of our fleet vehicles were broken down, not running or needed maintenance of some kind," he said.

Stambaugh reiterates that progress is being made---and he knows residents are watching.

"We just really want to as citizens voice our concerns to the city that it is a top priority to clean up these dilapidated properties," homeowner Charles Bryant said.

When we spoke with Briant on-camera in 2020, he was a frustrated homeowner. He has since ran for Mayor---and won.

He wasn't available in-person when we met with Stambaugh, but we were able to catch up with him over the phone.

"The job of Mayor is not something I wanted to be involved in but it got to a point where it seemed I wasn't being heard at the local level through addressing my elected leaders," Bryant explained.

One of his campaign promises is to work on the city's condemnation list. He believes Stambaugh is genuine about his intentions to fix city problems.

"I'm happy with Mr. Stambaugh's performance," Bryant said. "He is one of our longer serving administrators and I think he's done a great job."

Stambaugh says the public should see progress with the city's condemnation list in about a year.

"I want to be honest," he said. "I want to share with people that we've got problems, but I also want people to know what we're doing. Compared to when I started to where we are now is 100% better and that's the direction we need to go. I also want to send the message that Walsenburg is moving forward and we are making improvements."

Stambaugh says he's also working to get employees properly trained and certified---something that did not occur or wasn't enforced under the previous administration.

He says the city also just received a half-million dollars in grant money for major water and sewer infrastructure improvements. You can read more about that grant here.

Have a story idea for News 5 Investigates? Email us: News5Investigates@koaa.com