A stroke seven years ago made Pat Nutting stop his logging business. Now, Jackson County wants him to clean up his property. - Jim Craven

Forced junk cleanup is 'down to the wire'

A stroke seven years ago hit Pat Nutting hard, forcing him to give up his logging truck business.

Since then, his trucks and other equipment on his rural property off South Stage Road have deteriorated to the point that Jackson County declared them solid waste.

Now he faces a hefty fine if he doesn't clean it up.

"They're fixing to rob me," said Nutting, 65, who walks with a cane because the left side of his body is partially paralyzed. "They want $10,000."

Lissa Davis, county code enforcement supervisor, said her office will do everything possible to avoid the fine, which could have been levied already because Nutting's deadline has passed.

"We want to work with people," Davis said. "We want compliance and we don't want people to fail."

Nutting was first contacted by code enforcement officer Tod Miller in November 2005. Miller told him the trucks and equipment would have to be removed from the 1.7-acre property by the end of last year. When that deadline passed, the officer said Nutting had until Aug. 1 to haul everything away or face a $10,000 fine.

Davis said it's often difficult to get people to clean up properties, but she tries to establish a working relationship with the owner rather than resort to fines or citations.

Davis, who said the complaint was initiated by one of Nutting's neighbors, said the county will inspect his property soon to see how much has been cleaned up in the past six months.

"If a substantial amount of work is done, we might take it back to the hearings officer to see if he could amend his order," said Davis.

The hearings officer already levied a $600 fine, which would have been suspended if Nutting had hauled everything away by Aug. 1.

Davis said a $10,000 fine is rare and is collected when a property is sold or refinanced.

She said her department handled 400 code-enforcement cases last year, with about 80 percent driven by complaints from the public.

Nutting, who's lived on his property since 1972, went to see the county commissioners Wednesday along with his advocate, Curt Chancler, chairman of a conservative government watchdog organization known as the Jackson County Citizens Group.

He said Nutting's physical disabilities and his financial state make it difficult for him to clear the junk out in the time allotted by the county.

"He's coming down to the wire," said Chancler. "The statutes don't have a back door for these kind of things."

Commissioner C.W. Smith said he attempted to help Nutting last year and hopes to find a solution to the problem in the near future.

Other commissioners expressed sympathy with Nutting's plight. Jack Walker said he understands the difficulty that Nutting faces physically to clean up the property.

Chancler said Nutting still hangs on to his dream of continuing to operate logging trucks despite his physical handicap.

He said the county shouldn't be punitive in going after people who are doing what they want to do on their own property.

"It would be different if this was hurting someone," he said.

Despite Nutting's ailments, Chancler said 20 loads of junk have been taken off the property.

Nutting's girlfriend of 12 years, Frankie Hoffman, said she's been urging Nutting to clean up the property. The couple have a 10-year-old daughter, Kayla Nutting. She and her mother are the official owners of the property.

Hoffman said it's been difficult convincing Nutting that he's no longer capable of being in the logging truck business.

She's also hoping the county gives them more time. "I think we need another year," she said.

Nutting said he's hoping that some physical therapy will help him get back to work because he doesn't like to rely on Social Security.

"I'd like to get back to hauling logs as soon as I can," he said. "You work for 35 years and they start to steal your property."

Nutting also sees a lot of value in the things around his yard, including old tires that still have tread left on them and trucks that require some tinkering to get them on the road again.

Nutting's problems worsened Wednesday. After he left the county commissioners' meeting, he thought his car had been towed away from a handicap parking place. He later discovered he'd left the keys in the car and it had been stolen.

While attempting to clean up the property recently, Nutting said he was working on a forklift and turned the key to test something when the 6,000-pound vehicle lurched forward over his left foot.

"Now I'm trying to do this stuff on a broken foot," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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