Resident says cited for junk vehicle in garage


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — Although the City of Greenville has taken great strides to clean up the city from noxious weeds, tall grass and junk vehicles, one resident isn’t too happy about the way the city came down on him.

Ralph Helmer has a stand alone garage in the city and was recently cited for a junk vehicle. The house had previously been destroyed by fire and all that remains is the garage at the back of the property next to an alley. Helmer said he when he was initially warned about the junk vehicles on his property, including two that were behind the garage, and a tiller that was sitting outside in front of the garage, he took action. The two vehicles were towed away and the tiller was put inside the garage.

Helmer thought he had taken care of the issue until a police officer arrived with a citation. Helmer said he was cited for a junk vehicle that was sitting inside his garage. Helmer admits there isn’t a garage door, but is confused as to how a police officer can come into his garage, which he said he has video proof of that happening.

The vehicle has two flat tires, but is licensed with a historical plate. The paper tag was in the back window of the car, but the tape had come loose and the tag was laying flat between the window and the seat. Helmer contends the vehicle was properly licensed, which is one of the things the city looks at when determing if a vehicle is a junk vehicle.

When asked if the vehicle was completely in the garage or if any part of it was sticking out of the garage, Helmer said it was completely in the garage.

Although he could have paid the fine, Helmer has decided to fight the city in court. He was originally scheduled to appear in court on July 18, but that date was rescheduled to July 24 when he received a call stating his court date would be changed again and he would receive a notice in the mail. Shortly after July 24 he learned their was a license block and a bench warrant issued. Helmer went to the courthouse to find out why he was notified that the court date was going to be changed. After doing some digging, Helmer learned the call he received about the court date change came from the Adult Probation Office.

His new court date is set for Aug. 23. When asked if he would have an attorney present for the court date, Helmer said he would not be able to afford one to fight for him against the city.

Helmer said he has since moved the vehicle from the garage.

The Daily Advocate reached out to the city’s law director and safety/service director for comment on Tuesday, Aug. 1, but at the time of press had not received an answer to any of the questions submitted.

The questions posed to the city were:

Did the city cite Mr. Helmer for the junk vehicle that was in his garage?

Did the city’s police go into the garage to look at the vehicle?

If Mr. Helmer’s account is accurate, is the city actively citing individuals for “junk vehicles” in their garages – whether they have a door on their garage or not?

Under the law, is it permissible to cite an individual for a junk vehicle in their garage?

Is there a difference as to whether they can be cited if they have a garage door or not?

Who is the individual listed on the complaint against Mr. Helmer’s property and/or vehicles?

The Daily Advocate/Early Bird will update this story as information becomes available.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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