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NR vs. Borst, Day 2: police chief pressed to define 'junk'

Define "junk."

That was part of the task for the New Richmond Chief of Police Mark Samelstad Thursday morning, while giving testimony in the case of the City of New Richmond versus Vernon Borst. Borst is having his days in court after receiving 40 citations from the city in 2007, stating that his property at 648 W. Fourth St. violates the city's nuisance ordinance. Borst claims he is simply running a business at which he sells used property.

The case came to trial earlier this year, but a mistrial was declared by Judge Howard Cameron, after he realized that it was more complex than first perceived, and that not enough time was alloted to hear the case.

The trial commenced Wednesday, with jury selection and opening arguments at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson. This time, Cameron told the jury to expect to hear testimony Thursday and Friday, and possibly reserve Monday for deliberations.

In opening arguments, Kristina Williamson, attorney for the city, read extensively from the city's ordinance, stating what should not be stored on property. Borst's attorney, Warren Brandt, stated that the violations were in the eyes of the beholder, and Borst received the citations simply because the city's chief of police didn't like the looks of the property.

Testimony began Thursday morning with Samelstad on the stand. Williamson asked Samelstad about the use of the property. Samelstad said that he had observed on a daily basis, while driving to and from work, and that the property is filled with flatbed trailers with scrap metal on them, old boats, and old tractor, old trucks with a broken windshield, lumber and other debris, some of which may house vermin or areas that could breed vermin and insects.

The landowner was cited under the city's garbage abatement ordinances, Samelstad said.

"You don't like that property, do you?" asked Brandt when it was his turn to question the police chief. His question was suppressed, and Brandt continued his questioning. He established that Borst does have the right to sell property from that site, which was the purpose of purchasing the property. Then, he proceeded to both parse the city's ordinance and the meaning of the word "junk."

Brandt asked several questions about just what part of the city's nuisance ordinance was violated. And he asked about "junk." "Why is a lawn mower 'junk?'" he asked. How does one define "junk," he continued to ask, and could the city give his client an explanation of what is to be known as junk? "The specific word 'junk' is not mentioned in the ordinance," Samelstad answered.

Brandt went on to ask about "garbage," and question just what kind of garbage was on the property? He also asked to know in just what way did Borst injure the public, as is stated in the ordinance, with the items on his property.

Borst had been told how to remedy the situation, Samelstad said, and at one point had cleaned up the property, before reverting to storing more items on the property.

"Mr. Borst knew what he had to do on the property" to conform with city ordinance, Samelstad said.

The trial continued Thursday, with testimony from the officers who issued the citations.