City to add more code enforcement to student-populated areas
If there is trash on your lawn or a car parked somewhere it shouldn't be, you will be more likely to get a citation for it this fall after the city adds a code enforcement officer specifically for the student-populated neighborhoods between Bellows and High streets.
At a recent City Commission meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to hire an additional code enforcement officer to patrol the the M-2 district, which is primarily populated by students.
City Manager Nancy Ridley said the decision is a result of neighbors' concerns with student behavior and too much trash in the area.
"The goal is to develop relationships with residents, form neighborhood associations and deal with code issues sooner, resulting in less negative interactions," Ridley said.
While it is unusual to hire a code enforcement officer in the middle of the year, Ridley said the city is able to pay the officer with unused funds from vacant positions and from a grant that must be used on neighborhoods.
Mount Pleasant Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Pickler said the most frequent violation in student-populated areas is the accumulation of trash and litter.
"We have a large concentration of people living there," he said. "We spend more time having to enforce the ordinances and keep the area clean."
When a violation is found, the officer posts a corrective notice if no one is at the residence. They also try to contact the residents. The officer sets a deadline for the area to be cleaned up.
"We give them an opportunity to clean it up," Pickler said.
If the issue isn't resolved by the specified time, residents receive a municipal civil infraction. The first offense is $50 per resident. If an officer has to return for a second violation within the same calendar year, the violation automatically becomes a second offense. The fee increases by $50 per resident for each offense. Officers will notify landlords if residents are not cooperative. Landlords could tack on extra fees for their residents.
Residents can have a ticket differed. If it is a first offense, they can work through the city attorney's office to complete 24 hours of community service instead of paying the ticket.
"They will pick up trash or work on projects in the city," Pickler said. "It gives them the opportunity to work off a mistake. We get some good work out of some bad behavior."
The city is working on hiring the additional officer before August.
"If someone isn't hired before students return, we'll make some changes to the current staff's duties to make those relationships right away," Ridley said.
Commissioner Kathleen Ling said she supports hiring an additional officer because the city has had problems with the M-2 district for the past few years.
"I said about five years ago that we need additional code enforcement," she said. "We need to decrease the need for negative contacts by upping enforcement."
Mayor Jim Holton agreed, saying education would be a key part of the implementation of the new officer.
"It's been a goal of the commission to work this area a little differently," he said. "It can't hurt—it's only going to help."
With the implementation of a new recycling program coming up, Commissioner Matthew Sous said it would be a good time to have another resource for students.
"It makes sense to have an officer in the area to help educate (residents) on our efforts to increase recycling there," he said. "We want to see as many people help get that information out there as possible."