City intern is writing a program to establish nuisance abatement guidelines

Marlys Barker
City of Nevada intern Trey Rouse, a 2016 graduate of Ankeny Centennial High School, is a junior at Iowa State University studying community and regional planning. He will be working with the city throughout this spring/summer season. Photo by Marlys Barker

A sophomore community and regional planning (CRP) student is testing his knowledge and skills in an internship with the city of Nevada this year.

Trey Rouse, 21, originally from Ankeny, began working with the city, mostly in the planning and zoning department, on Jan. 28.

Rouse comes into his internship with knowledge from classes, but even more importantly, prior experience that he gained doing an internship with the city of Newton last summer. In Newton, Rouse worked with the Destruction and Demolition Program, which focused on abandonment and nuisance issues, just like what he’s focused on in Nevada.

“I am writing the program (for Nevada’s Nuisance Abatement Program),” Rouse said. “It will be a guideline to what we (the city) can do and will help others who work on [nuisance and abatement issues] in the future.”

Along with writing a program, Rouse has also been out in the city, taking notes and talking to property owners about properties that are not being kept up as they should be.

Rouse explained that in the past, the city could look at basic issues — not mowing the grass, not shoveling the sidewalks, etc. — create a file on that property and then take the property owner to court for lack of maintenance. But as people caught on to that and started to do the basic things, there needed to be a better process of documenting other issues that needed to be done.

“This program will actually look at the physical property and create a guideline to document other things, like water use, electrical use … and if they aren’t using those things, basically they’re degrading the property,” Rouse said. “It’s looking at more of the physical structural things on a property, like broken or boarded-up windows…anything to show that the house is no longer livable.”

Rouse said he’s getting help from great resources as he works on the program. One resource has been his former supervisor in Newton. Another resource would be a lawyer he got to know there, Mr. Caldwell with the firm Caldwell & Brierly PLLC, who helped him understand the legal process involved in property abandonment. “I also work closely with Erin Clanton (Nevada’s city attorney)… and I go over it with Shawn (Cole, building and zoning administrator) and Matt (Mardesen, city administrator),” he said.

On his current list are 13 Nevada properties that need to be handled. He’s already talked to the first three property owners on that list and said he’s pleased with how all three have responded. One plans to demolish the structure and the other two are making positive improvements.

By talking with property owners — and he loves talking to people, describing himself as very social — Rouse said he can often help them understand some of the things they can do with their property. One thing is to help them understand that the land alone has value if they choose to demolish a deteriorating structure. Depending on where the property is located, he noted, the goal is to have that land be used for something that benefits the community, whether that’s a new residential structure, a community center, a park or something else.

Rouse started out in college focusing on civil engineering, but after a year or so in that area, he didn’t really feel he fit in. Part of that was his desire to socialize with others. “So the second semester of my sophomore year, I took a CRP class and just loved it. It was very discussion-based,” and he loved discussing all the topics that they covered.

He plans to graduate from ISU in May of 2020 and settle into a career in community regional planning. He also said there’s an outside possibility he could go to law school.

In the meantime, and during this internship, he’s gleaning as much as he can from the experience and from the people he’s working with. “Every single person I’ve interacted with (at the city) has been amazing. I couldn’t tell you how much Shawn Cole and Matt Mardesen have helped me. Everyone here gets along really well … and that’s how you get things done.”

As for working in Nevada, he’s enjoyed the small-town atmosphere. He’d only been to the town once before as a high school student, when he attended a wrestling event at Nevada High School. Now he comes several times a week to work. And he’s enjoying every part of it.

“I love Nevada actually,” he said.