Council to look at codes enforcement

Sellers said a tenant who is renting from him is restoring a 1968 Chevy in her back yard, a process that thus far has taken about eight months. He added there may have been a couple of car batteries sitting around.

Then one day, with no warning letters or phone calls, Sellers said, he received a certified letter containing copies of eight tickets for codes violations, as well as a notice to appear in court.

He said he first went to the mayor and then went to Anderson. Sellers said he told her he would take care of the problem.

He said she then told him not to worry about a thing; she would take care of everything. When he called her back after the court hearing, she told him he was on probation for six months, he said.

Anderson, on the other hand, told the council she sent Sellers a letter giving him 30 days to clean up the property, including removing a car engine that was hanging from a tree in the yard and had been for some time.

Anderson said that when Sellers didn’t comply, she did what City Attorney Andy Wright told her to do and cited him every day for four days. When he still didn’t comply or even respond, she sent the certified letter and handed the matter over to Wright who took it to civil court.

There, based on pictures and documentation in the letter and citations, the judge decided to put Sellers on probation for six months. If Sellers keeps his property in compliance with city codes for six months, everything will be dropped, Wright said. However, if Sellers does not comply, he will owe $160 per citation in fines and court costs.

But Sellers and another man from the same area, Marshall Kent, told council they want the charges dropped because they feel they are being singled out and treated unfairly.

Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buehler, who vouched for Sellers’ honesty because he and Sellers are longtime acquaintances, said he wants to be sure everyone in the city is treated the same way. He wants several other home owners cited as well and on the same schedule, or these two cases dropped.

Wright said he and Anderson have to enforce the ordinances as city council enacted them, and explained that if the ordinance is wrong, it needs to be changed.

After about half an hour of discussion, Mayor Don Fox said all the officials concerned will meet later with the council to consider whether the ordinance needs to be revised. Anderson also said she plans to start sending all 30-day warnings by certified mail, in addition to follow-up letters which already are sent certified.

Council also passed on first reading the 2008-2009 city budget and left the tax rate the same at Tuesday’s meeting.

The city property tax rate will remain the same at 37 cents per $100 of assessed value. The proposed General Fund budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year is $20.5 million. That includes everything but the gas, water and sewer budgets and capital investments. The overall budget, which includes those items, is $54.9 million.

Councilors also passed, on second reading, rezoning of the southwest corner of West Main and Castle Heights from R-1 (residential) to B-6 (transitional office); the southwest corner of Hartmann Drive and Coles Ferry Pike from R-1A (lowest density residential) to B-4 (highway commercial); and about 30 acres on the east side of Coles Ferry Pike from R-1A to RS-15 (low-density single-family residential).

Council passed a resolution updating the city’s employee travel regulations. The new policy requires documentation of expenses to be reimbursed and limits which expenses the city will cover.

Councilors also passed, on second reading, ordinances to renew the contract to rehabilitate and improve the natural gas system; exempt roofs from the building permit requirement; waive fees for the W.H. Neal storage facility; approve bids to repair the gym floor at Harold Dean Greer Recreation Center: and to approve bids for resealing the walking track and parking lots at Don Fox Community Park.