Great Falls couple seeks help for snake problem

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Town to have overgrown, nuisance lots mowed

Nancy Parsons
Landmark News Services
GREAT FALLS – A Jackson Street couple is hopeful that help is on the way to deal with baby copperhead snakes in their yard.
Travis Lipford and Vanessa Trull have lived at 3 Jackson St. for almost two years. Lipford said he has seen more snakes this year than before.
“I saw a few last year,” he said.
But he worked out-of-town last year and paid someone to cut his grass, he said.
Lipford has taken over the grass cutting job this year and said warm weather has brought an increase of snakes to his yard.
“I’ve seen eight or nine this year,” he said. “About every time I cut grass, I find a baby copperhead.”
Lipford said he has seen snakes underneath a gas can, a tarp covering his boat and a tire. He also found a baby snake under his dog house.
He said one of the snakes struck at him.
Trull said she is afraid of getting bit by one of the snakes. She wants the problem solved.
Lipford’s neighbor, Scott Hammons, who moved to 7 Jackson St. about three or four years ago, is also experiencing the same problem and recently cleaned an overgrown lot behind his house on Wilson Street once, hoping to get rid of the snakes.
So far, Hammons has killed five snakes this year.
“I just killed one a month ago,” Hammons said. “I see one every couple of months.”
Hammons said he found a big snake and some baby snakes that looked like copperheads.
Great Falls Town Clerk Julie Blackwell said Jim Keistler owns the two vacant lots on Wilson Street behind the Lipford and Hammons homes.
Mayor Don Camp, nuisance abatement officer for the town, said Keistler was told to cut the grass one time this year. Camp said Keistler has been very cooperative and has worked with him on nuisance problems more than anybody else has.
“And he’s spent more money cleaning up than anybody else,” Camp said.
According to the mayor, Keistler has torn down seven or eight houses and is planning to demolish  four more houses. Camp said Keistler bought one property on Dearborn Street and had the building torn down.
“It tickled me to death that Jim did as much as he did,” Camp said.
Camp said Great Falls has a problem with vacant, overgrown lots.
“We’ve got the same situation on Oak Street, Holly Street, Walnut Street, Poplar Street, Circle Street, Broad Street and Pine Street,” Camp said. “We’re getting to it. We’re making a little progress. We’re trying.”
When the town sends a nuisance letter to the property owner, the owner has 15 days to respond to the certified letter. A summons to appear in court can also be issued. Camp said the process can take 45 or more days to settle.
He said the town charges between $30 and $70 if they clean the property.
Only a couple of people have paid the clean-up fee, Camp said. Some property owners tell him the town can have the property, he said. The property owner has to sell the property before the town can recoup its money, Camp said. A judgment against the property has to be issued.
Keistler, when contacted by the newspaper Thursday, said he would have the lots cleaned up.
Camp also pledged to have the lots cut.
“I can get the two lots cut,” Camp said. “We’ll cut them. I want everybody to be happy where they live.”