When some residents travel around DeKalb County, they often see overgrown grass and weeds; inoperable vehicles; commercial vehicles in residential areas; and pools that are unmaintained and become mosquito traps.
“This county is going to the dogs,” said Charles Peagler, president of the King Ridge Homeowners Association. There is “trash everywhere.”
“It’s those aggravating things many neighborhoods experience,” said Joe Arrington, who along with Peagler was a member of a code enforcement task force that looked into the problems of county code violations.
The “large and ever-increasing number of foreclosures” has become “a compounding burden on all of this,” Arrington said.
Some task force members and county residents are upset over what that say is foot-dragging on the part of the county.
“We worked hard on this for 10 months,” Peagler said during the July 12 Board of Commissioners meeting. “We’ve done all the work on the ordinance.
“We can’t understand why this ordinance can’t come out of your committee,” Peagler said to Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton during the meeting. “You were not drafted to run for that office, you asked for the office. We need you to do the job in that office.”
Sutton said the ordinance is not buried on her desk. Because the proposed ordinance had several problems, she said she passed the ordinance to the county attorney to get some legal opinions about how the ordinance would stand up in court. The legal staff found more problems that needed to be addressed, but hopes to have the proposed ordinance available for the Board of Commissioners by Aug. 9.
“There has to be respect for the process,” Sutton said. “We are working to come up with a product that we can work with.”
But as originally drafted, the proposed ordinance “conflicted with something else on the books,” Sutton said.
Sutton, who chairs the board’s county operations and public safety committee, said code enforcement is a top priority for her along with public safety.
“I want code enforcement to be beefed up,” Sutton said.
One of the problems of the proposed ordinance is possible jail time for violators and penalties handed down by volunteers on a seven-member code enforcement board that would be held accountable for all decisions it makes, Sutton said.
“Code enforcement is not there to put people in jail,” Sutton said. “Do we really want to put a 90-year-old grandmother in jail because she has a tarp on her roof?”
According to the proposed ordinance, the code enforcement board would have the authority to hand down administrative fines of up to $1,000 per day per fine.
Peagler said residents are fed up with the bureaucratic “shell game” and want the ordinance to be passed as soon as possible to address a backlog in code enforcement complaints.
“I don’t know anything more important than to protect the property base,” said Gil Turman, another task force member. “The county needs the financial base from property in the communities. We have a commission that is not protecting the very basis for which money is generated for this county to run. It doesn’t make any sense.”