While drinking coffee on their West Monroe Street porch one steamy summer day, Bill and Janice Ranzenberger thought they heard groundhogs or stray cats stirring in the 2-foot-high weeds in the trailer park across the street.
What Bill, 55, thought was critters that day was actually a young man stealing copper tubing from the bottom of a bedraggled, off-white trailer. He's caught thieves stealing other things from the property, too.
"He moved from the next trailer to the next one to the next one," Bill said. "It's just unsafe. There's all kinds of strange people and homeless people walking around.
"I'm afraid they're thinking they can just break in and stay awhile because no one knows what's going on here. We shouldn't have to look at this all day."
This isn't a new issue for the neighborhood.
For a few months, the city has been in negotiations to purchase the trailer park as part of its plan to expand and renovate Lions Park. In that time the weeds have grown out of control.
The brush has become a perfect hiding spot for skunks, possums, groundhogs, cats, dogs, thieves and homeless people.
Carrie Handy, the city's chief planner, said the city finished the paperwork on Aug. 6 to take ownership of 12 of the 15 trailers on the property.
She said she called the maintenance department, and neighbors said city workers sprayed the weeds.
But the city workers didn't mow the weeds or remove the dead ones after spraying, neighbors said, and now those dead plants have dried out, leaving a fire hazard.
"Do you know how quickly that would spread if someone, God forbid, caught (something) on fire over there?" asked Joe Hess, 66, one of Ranzenberger's neighbors.
Handy said she's working on the issue as fast as she can and is in the midst of negotiations with several companies to demolish the trailers.
If quotes come in under $10,000, the trailers could be demolished by next month. But if they come in over $10,000 and the city must bid out the process, the trailers might not be demolished until October.
"I want to get rid of them as soon as possible," Handy said. "I know there are critters and people and all kinds of things coming out of there."
The problem doesn't stop at the edge of the trailer park's property.
The Ranzenbergers said kids have been skateboarding in the empty trailer park late into the night. Six other residents in the area also complain about teenagers, homeless people, wild animals and trash -- all at or around the abandoned trailer park.
The Ranzenbergers and Hesses fear that the longer the weeds and empty trailers stay up, the worse the problems will get.
"It's a quality of life issue," Barbara Hess, 65, said. "We've lived in this neighborhood for 45 years."
"This is our home," Joe added. "We don't want to see it just keep running down."
Bill called city commissioners and the city manager's office, and he's been promised something will happen "soon."
"But when?" asked Bill's wife, Janice. "We have to live here. We want them gone now."