Officials found dozens of Norwegian rats, both living and dead, among the mounds of trash inside a Springettsbury Township home that was condemned in what the township's codes officer calls the most egregious case of hoarding he has ever seen.
Sarah Nazmack, the 59-year-old owner of the townhouse condo at 1605 Long Drive, is in York County Prison as a result of her non-compliance in the township's 8-month-long legal battle to compel her to clean out her home.
Officials were first made aware of the unsanitary conditions inside the condo earlier this year, after a neighbor reported there was a fire in Nazmack's unit, said codes enforcement officer Fred Nestlerode.
He said the 1,600-square-foot condo was piled nearly floor to ceiling with trash and had a pungent, musty odor. Nazmack had to crawl over piles of trash to enter the kitchen, he said.
"It was mice and rat-infested," he said. "Some were dead, some were alive, and they had worked their way into the adjoining condos. People who had no problem with cleanliness were...getting these Norwegian rats in their condos. When (clean up crews) were taking the boxes out yesterday, mice were coming out of the boxes."
Nestlerode said he pointed out the obvious piles of rodent feces during one of his inspections, but Nazmack claimed "it was bird seed."
He condemned the property about six weeks ago under the International Property Maintenance Code, but Nazmack was continuing to remove the placards and enter the property, he said.
The codes officer said the woman's legal problems have mounted over the past eight months as she refused to address the problem. What started with a "courtesy letter" from the township asking her to clean her property evolved into seven criminal complaints, thousands of dollars in fines, an order from Common Pleas Judge John W. Thompson telling her to clean, incarceration in York County Prison about 10 days ago, and now a lien on her home for the cost of the township-contracted crews who have had to "gut" the house down to the drywall and floorboards, Nestlerode said.
It's not clear how much the project will cost, he said, as crews had removed three oversize dumpsters worth of trash Tuesday and were working on a fourth Thursday.
"Everything she ever had went out in these dumpsters," he said. "It was all laced with...well, they had to wear biohazard suits and masks. Not only was she a victim to herself. All the people attached to her were victims of it."
Met-Ed crews shut off electricity to the unit so wires, which had been damaged by rodents, could be repaired, he said. Crews are also expected to exterminate after the unit is empty.
According to county records, Nazmack bought the condo on June 5, 2008.
She was in York County Prison Wednesday, held on the property-related charge of adoption of standards, and will have to post more than $4,000 in cash, not bail, to address her fines so she can get out of jail, according to a prison official.