Clean Sedalia panel mulls plan draft

July 27, 2012

During its meeting on Thursday, the Citizens for a Clean Sedalia committee discussed a rough draft of the plan it will present to council at the end of next month.

Committee Chair Mary Merritt compiled members’ notes and suggestions from previous meetings for the draft, which will include recommendations regarding grass, weeds and trash problems throughout the city. One big topic of discussion Thursday was whether the committee should recommend adding personnel to the Community Development Department, which includes code enforcement.

“I think if we’re telling (council) we want to be more proactive in enforcement, that will increase the amount of inspections we do, which means we need someone else in codes,” Merritt said.

Committee member Pete Sublett agreed, noting a proactive approach may triple the number of grass and trash complaints.

“It seems like Esther (Schultz, code enforcement officer) spends a lot of time on the phone, dealing with grass complaints appeals,” Sublett said. “It would help if she had another person doing enforcement as well, to take some of that burden off her plate.”

Currently those who are in violation of the grass ordinance receive both a certified and regular letter from Schultz detailing the violation. About 20 percent of offenders call to appeal the complaint, Schultz estimated.

“I take things on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “Sometimes their circumstances will warrant an extension, sometimes not. But I can tell you, I’ve sent 30 more violation letters this year than the same time last year and right now I haven’t had time for follow-ups, to see if those people have fixed the violation because I’ve been so busy with new complaints.”

“That’s why we need an additional staff person,” said committee member Jack Robinson. “We can’t expect people to comply with the law if we’re not following up and checking to see if they’ve done it.”

Merritt said she’d add the recommendation of hiring an additional code enforcement officer to the draft of the plan for council. City Administrator Gary Edwards said city staff would come up with numbers for salary and benefits to present to council as well.

“If council buys that we’re going to be more proactive in our approach, there’s no question that we’re going to need more people,” Merritt said. “Of course, council doesn’t have to listen to us at all.”

Minor changes were also made to the draft, including being more specific in wording and expanding various project ideas. In addition, the committee also asked city staff to look at rewording its form letter that is sent to those in violation of grass and trash ordinances to make it more clear.

Finally, the committee heard from Edwards about the disposal of building materials. Currently city ordinances prevent homeowners from leaving building materials with their trash, partially because contractors can have large amounts of trash and can overwhelm trash haulers.

“We’re prepared to change that ordinance, provided the homeowner cut the building materials — things like drywall and lumber — and put them into plastic bags,” Edwards said. “Now, there’s no way to differentiate between a contractor’s materials and someone doing a project themselves, but we can’t do much about that.”

Council would have to approve the ordinance, Edwards cautioned, but it would help deter some owners from leaving old building materials around yards. The materials could be thrown away using daily trash service or through the pick-up on demand service the city will soon be implementing.

Committee members decided to discuss the issue and go over another draft of the recommendation plan at the next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 7. The committee will present its final plan at a council work session Aug. 27.