BRENTWOOD — A Salem property owner has been given 10 days to clean up the mountains of printer boxes that have become an eyesore for neighbors, but if he doesn’t comply the town will have authority to move in.

Michael Bates appeared in Rockingham County Superior Court Monday morning for a hearing with Salem officials to decide the next steps in an ongoing battle to clean up at least 2,000 printer boxes with the Epson inkjet printers still inside on his property at 45 Maclarnon Road.

Salem Health Officer Brian Lockard said the town has received estimates of $15,000 to $18,000 to clean up the mess.

Printer pile

Piles of printers and printer boxes remain in the yard of 45 Maclarnon Road in Salem despite extensive efforts of the town to make the property owner remove them.

Bates told Judge Marguerite Wageling that he had hoped to sell the property, but he was unable to reach a deal.

With no sale pending, Bates was ordered to clean up as much as he can within the next 10 days. The town will have authority to clean up whatever remains and expects to be reimbursed for the costs.

If the town ends up taking on the cleanup effort after the 10 days, Lockard said he hopes the work would be done within 30 to 60 days.

Bates told the court that people have reached out to help and that a couple of friends had offered equipment. He insisted that he would make sure the town is reimbursed for its cost to remove the boxes if it has to step in.

Bates has told officials that he removed the ink cartridges from the printers to recycle for profit before his business closed.

A lien will likely be placed on the property, Lockard said.

Lockard said Bates took some steps to clean up the property several months ago, but that he’s done little since then.

“There’s so much material there it could create a harborage for animals. It’s actually starting to decay,” he said after the hearing. “The boxes of cardboard are falling apart. They’re blowing around. Neighbors have indicated that the piles of boxes have actually damaged the fence, so there’s a number of issues.”

Lockard said the possible presence of rats and other rodents are also a concern.

“He’s very cooperative and pleasant to deal with. He’s been attending the court hearings, but he hasn’t corrected the problem and that’s really the bottom line,” he said.

Bates, who represented himself, declined to comment further after Monday’s hearing.