WESTMINSTER, Colo. (KDVR) — It didn’t take long for William Prouty’s property to turn into a junkyard again.
On Thursday, cleanup crews hired by the City of Westminster removed mounds of random trash, furniture, appliances and even a toilet from the front and back yards of 4245 Barr Lane.
The property was last cleaned up on June 15 after Prouty’s father hired contractors to take away all the trash while Prouty was serving time in the Adams County jail for domestic violence.
Neighbors speak out
Prouty was released from custody in August, and neighbors feared it wouldn’t be long before his property reverted to being a neighborhood eyesore.
“It’s as bad as it was last time. The whole backyard is full of stuff,” said next-door neighbor Billy Schlenker.
Like many neighbors, Schlenker has now equipped his home with multiple video cameras and shared footage of Prouty backing his car into another car parked across the street in January.
“He didn’t let anybody know. Luckily, we had cameras. We caught it. And then two days ago, he was out here in the snow grabbing stuff out of their dumpster and put it in his yard. It’s in a dumpster for a reason. We don’t need to have it in your yard,” said Schlenker.
The house occupied by 55-year-old William Prouty has been the source of neighbor complaints for years.
“He has been a nuisance to the whole neighborhood,” said a neighbor who lives across the street but asked the Problem Solvers not to identify her.
It was her son’s car in the videos that show Prouty backing into it and then leaving.
“He clearly hit it. He didn’t care, and he drove away,” she said.
Now the woman and her husband have put their house up for sale, partly because they’ve been wanting a new house but also partly because of Prouty.
When asked how unfair it felt to be moving instead of Prouty being the one to move she said, “It sucks. We’ve done a lot of remodeling to our house. It’s very beautiful inside. It’s very nice on the outside, and he just makes our whole block look trashy.”
Westminster Police show up
While the Problem Solvers were talking to neighbors, six Westminster Police officers showed up and four of them approached Prouty’s front door, but he didn’t answer their knock.
“He knows when they’re coming. He goes in and he hides,” explained the neighbor selling her house.
Police tagged one of Prouty’s cars as abandoned because neighbors said it hadn’t left the curbside in weeks.
But two others cars in the front yard were left without tickets because police said cars parked on private property are a code enforcement issue.
A city worker told FOX31 Prouty dumped some rocks on his front yard a while ago since people can legally park vehicles on a “rocked” surface.” The code enforcement employee said it appeared to be an effort by Prouty to see how far he could “push the limits.”
When the Problem Solvers knocked on Prouty’s door just minutes after the police left, he still refused to answer.
But the door was left wedged open about a foot which allowed anyone to peek inside at a collection of junk and trash piled high to greet anyone who might step foot inside.
“I think the city of Westminster needs to condemn the house. Tear down the house and then arrest him for what he’s been doing,” said Schlenker.
The city responds
In an email, the city of Westminster told the Problem Solvers,” The City does not “condemn” properties; however, the City can deem a property unsafe” if it “Is determined by the health officer to be unsanitary, unfit for human habitation or in such a condition that is likely to cause sickness or disease.”
In addition, a home can be deemed unsafe by the fire marshal, “Whenever any building or structure, because of obsolescence, dilapidated condition, deterioration, damage, inadequate exits, lack of sufficient fire-resistive construction, faulty electric wiring, gas connections or heating apparatus, the accumulation of trash, inadequate maintenance, or other cause, is determined by the fire marshal to be a fire hazard.”
The city said that does not appear to be the case currently.
“At this time, the City is aware of and continues to respond to issues related to the exterior of the property. However, it does not appear that the property meets the criteria above.”
One reason the city might not consider the home’s interior to be unsafe is that the city admits it has never sought legal permission to go inside the home.
On Thursday, contractors hired by the city removed the latest collection of Prouty’s junk.
“Yeah, it’s just a Band-Aid. And it’s almost like they’re not going to do something until someone gets hurt or something worse,” said the neighbor selling her house.
A year ago, something worse did happen. A hoarder who was living barely a mile away in a house at 7731 N. Knox Court blew himself up in a propane tank explosion. The home had been plastered with a red sticker deeming the house “uninhabitable,” but code enforcement and police never made a sustained effort to keep the man from living in the home owned by his mother.
How much did the abatement cost?
As for the abatement at Prouty’s house, the City of Westminster shared the following statistics.
- Seven hours
- Seven staff members from the contractor (plus two city staff members)
- 8 trailer loads (50,000 lbs) removed
- 3 vehicles towed
- 1 boat and trailer towed
- Total cost of abatement work: $5,518
In a follow-up email, the head of the city’s Operations and Community Preservation program told FOX31 the city doesn’t have a legal mechanism to ask a judge for permission to inspect the inside of Prouty’s home to determine if it’s unsanitary or a fire hazard.
FOX31 was told by email, “As you know and as we have discussed with neighbors, today (Feb. 9 abatement) did not solve the problem. We are going to continue to explore and use tools we have to attempt to bring additional relief to the neighborhood.”
If Prouty doesn’t pay the $5,518 that it cost the city to clean his property, a lien will be placed on the property for the unpaid amount.