Man fined for unkempt lawn; says he didn't even know he owned pr - KMOV.com

Man fined for unkempt lawn; says he didn't even know he owned property

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HILLSDALE (KMOV.com) -

A Hillsdale property owner says he is being treated unfairly after a warrant and a thousand dollar cash only bond was issued on him for having an unkempt yard.

Dale Watson said he thought his North County property had been sold off by the county because of back taxes years ago. He hadn’t been to the home in seven years and was blindsided to find out not only did he own the property, he was going to jail if he didn't hand over the cash.

Watson told News 4 Thursday he found out Wednesday that police have been looking for him for two years, with a warrant to arrest him for not maintaining his yard properly. A yard that earlier in the week had grass that had grown more than four feet high and was littered with trash.

“I was under the assumption based upon the information I got from St. Louis County that the property was sold,” Watson said.

Watson and his wife called into the police department when they heard about the fine and say they talked directly to Chief Herb Simmons about the $1,000, thinking it was all a misunderstanding.

Chief Simmons did offer to reduce the bond, telling News 4 $1,000 is a hefty amount to pay out of pocket.

“Why it’s set at $1,000, that's the judge, that's the court systems,” Simmons said. “I do have the authority to lower a bond. After I lower it, I contact our judge and say this person turned himself in.”

Watson ended up paying $100 to get a new court date and has since cleaned up the property, but says he still believes he is being targeted.

“This is no different than any other building that has been abandoned, and forgotten about throughout the entire course of Hillsdale,” he explained. “You can ride around any of these streets and see this same scenario taking place.”

To critics who suggest the fine is just a way a small municipality can nickel-and-dime a resident, Chief Simmons said this is available.

“It’s real simple. You know how to solve that problem? Make sure your property is right, you won't get cited.“

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