ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A mess that covered an entire yard on 56th North Street in St. Petersburg, and plagued residents for more than two years has finally been cleared away, but some remain concerned the mountain of debris could rise again.
Neighbors say friends and relatives of Jason Johns got involved after his apparent hoarding problem was exposed last month.
Andrew Watts contacted code enforcement several times to complain about the issue, which got the ball rolling.
“Since the time that [8 On Your Side] showed up and did the first story up to now has been the most action that has occurred since the start of this and that was at the end of 2019,” Watts said.
City code enforcement has hit Johns with more than $10,000 in fines and liens.
Last month, Johns promised he was working to clean up the mess.
“I had a couple of deaths in my family in the past year and I’m a little bit of a hoarder,” he told 8 On Your Side. “I admit that.”
Mike Neal, owner of Junk Warriors, said “the story pulled at my heart strings,” and he wanted to get involved.
Neal said he agreed to give Johns’ family and friends a discount, factoring out the cost of labor and charging them only for supplies.
“They told us how much they had already spent to deal with hundreds of days’ worth of fines,” Neal said. “So, we just tried to help them out the best that we could.”
Neal said his crew spent about a week at the property and hauled away 40,000 pounds of items.
Neighbors said they are happy the eyesore is gone, but they’re still concerned about what happens when Johns is released from jail later this year.
Johns was arrested Dec. 15 for possession of methamphetamine and cocaine. The charges violated the terms of his probation.
“If he comes out and this starts all over again, I guess we’re all in for another big fight,” Watts said. “I don’t think the laws are tailored to any extreme situation like this.”
Watts and other neighbors plan to call for changes to a city ordinance, which prevents the city from taking a homeowner to court until their fines and liens reach $15,000.
Watts said a councilmember told him the codes are based on “best practices statewide.”
“So, if that’s the case then we need to take some kind of legislation to Tallahassee then we should do it,” Watts said. “There has to be some kind of laws in place that deal with extreme situations. Maybe a task force of some kind when you have somebody who absolutely refused to comply with basic code regulations.”