GIRARD — The Crawford County Commission hosted a work session on Tuesday to discuss a horse rescue operation located in a largely residential area on E 20th St. in Pittsburg.
Tensions ran high as Rich Rhuems, a resident near the horse rescue operation owned by Dani Menghini and Jennifer Girth, addressed the commission regarding what Rhuems said are inappropriate conditions for horses, as well as excessive trash on the property.
“If you can’t leave it better than you’ve found it, you’ve failed,” Rhuems said. “The trash is still laying in the ditches and there’s trash all down 20th Street.”
Rhuems said there were at least six full trash containers on the property which had been sitting out in the wind for three or four days. He also said cats routinely cross onto his property and into his garage.
Commissioner Carl Wood was a vocal opponent of maintaining the status quo. He said he’s been hearing complaints about the operation’s property for four years.
Zoning Administrator Troy Graham said he’d driven by the property several times and had not seen excessive trash. Similarly, Commissioner Tom Moody said Menghini and Girth had stopped by his office earlier in the week and insinuated that any trash had been cleaned up.
Rhuems was not convinced.
“It’s easy to go by and say you’re looking for the trash and not seeing everything else out there,” he said.
Menghini and Girth were not present at the meeting. Instead, they were represented by Pittsburg attorney Rick Smith who challenged the commission on the legitimacy of the process.
“They’ve been subjected to numerous inspection by Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), environmental and state inspections, and they’ve never had any problems,” Smith said. “You’re conducting a hearing without due process.
“You haven’t told them at any point in time what the allegations are.”
Smith says Menghini and Girth are owed due process.
“We are entitled to a hearing, either you or zoning court,” he said. “This is not appropriate conduct.”
Wood emphasized that the meeting was a work session, not a formal hearing, and that no decisions were being made.
Smith went on to suggest complaints were based upon a personal vendetta, a comment that seemed to be directed at Wood.
“What vendetta have I got?” Wood asked. “I’m out in six weeks.”
Graham said the operation is not currently in violation of any zoning regulations. Commissioner Jeff Murphy said he believed the only way to deal with the issue would be to change regulations.
Jasmine Kyle, a representative for the Southeast Kansas Humane Society and Kansas State Animal Response Team said she’ll keep a close eye on how the issue progresses.
“We take these very seriously,” she said. “But it doesn’t sound like (the commission has) everything together. Especially with the owners not receiving notice. It’s alarming how much information was missing in the meeting.”
The commissioners agreed that a dumpster might be the best option in tending to the trash and plan to ask Menghini and Girth if they’re willing to use one. The matter of the horses, both in terms of their well-being and effect on the land, may prove more contentious.
“As far as the horses are concerned, I think it’s something that’s going to have to go to district court,” Commissioner Tom Moody said.
Rhuems said he just wants Menghini and Girth to be good neighbors.
“What they’re doing is noble,” he said. “But it needs to be done on 100 acres somewhere.”