Adds fines to ordinance on inhabited structures without utilities

The Booneville City Council last week adopted two ordinances empowering the police department to deal with unkempt property and inhabitants of property void of electrical, water, sewer services.

In an effort to speed up the procedure in which “clean up” letters are delivered to individuals whose property is deemed unsightly or unsanitary, to include those not mowed, the Booneville City Council last week passed an ordinance to streamline the process.

“The way the ordinance is written right now if a complaint is filed it goes to to the city clerk first so she has to fill out the order, said Lt. Ben Villarreal.

The order then goes to the mayor for his signature.

“Then the clerk gives it to (the police department) and we have to go serve it. This will eliminate that process and allow us to serve it,” said Villarreal.

The new ordinance allows for the police department to deliver pre-signed copies of the ordinance to alleged violators.

Passage of the ordinance came on a night the mayor was delivered a petition signed by residents who live around a particular residence seeking something be done about the state of the property.

Anyone served a copy of the new ordinance has 20 days, rather than the previous 10, to address the matter, after which time an officer will return and issue a citation, Villarreal said.

The ordinance spells out violations of properties with grass heights of eight or more inches, and states residents must cut and maintain trees and shrubbery, remove garbage, rubbish and other unsanitary and unsightly articles and things from the property as well as eliminating water pools and anything that could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies.

Specifically noted as unsightly are abandoned motor vehicles, inoperable motor vehicles, vehicle parts, inoperative household appliances.

After a citation is issued, Mayor Jerry Wilkins said, it is in a circuit judge’s hands.

“People really get frustrated sometimes because nothing gets done all that quick,” Wilkins said. “I have to explain the way the ordinance works, basically it all comes down to the judge. The fines are there, everything is there.”

The fine specified in the ordinance passed last week call for fines of $75 to $100 for convicted violators.

The adopted ordinance also covers commercial property, stating specifically property should be kept in a “clean, neat in appearance that does not reflect poorly on the community.”

That section of the new ordinance goes on to state no temporary rain covers shall be allowed to remain on goods for longer than a 24-hour period.

In cases where an offending property owner is unknown, or the individual cannot be located the ordinance empowers the city to place a lien on the property.

A citizen at the meeting posed the question as to whether an officer would serve the notice at 3 a.m. Wilkins joked they would finish by 1 a.m.

Villarreal said that because it is a civil matter any officer serving a copy of the ordinance will actually do so by 9 p.m.

An ordinance regarding occupancy of a structure without water, sewer, or electrical service was previously adopted Villarreal told the council, but it had no fine provision.

“The problem is people occupying structures that, for one reason or another , the plumbing or electrical system is not up to code and can’t be turned on,” said police chief Rusty Lewis.

Wilkins said he fields regular complaints that a city inspector will not permit electrical services to be re-established to a residence once the service has been terminated.

The new ordinance subjects a violator to fines of $50 per day after being served written notice to vacate a structure in violation of the ordinance within 24 hours and failing to do so.

The ordinance also holds responsible any person renting a structure in violation of the ordinance, which was also not the case previously, Villarreal said.

Violations will include residing in a structure powered by an extension cord drawing power from another residence, or water delivered through a hose connected to the service from another residence.

Villarreal said there are medical exemption permit procedures available which permit camper trailer residence next to a home.