City cracking down on clutter
Landowners asked to comply with nuisance abatement notices
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Knee-high lawns, trash heaps and unsafe structures are being mown down in Hartselle.
Citizen's complaints have prompted the city to issue 28 structure and nearly 100 lawn nuisance abatement notices in recent months. Code Enforcement Official Derrick Woodall is responsible for assessing each complaint and issuing notice if a problem is identified.
"The ordinance itself has been in place for years," Woodall said. "It's been handled case by case until I was hired and the duties were included in my job description through a push by the council."
Woodall, who was hired by the city last September, said 90 percent of all problem properties are identified by Hartselle residents.
"We just follow up on calls from the public," Woodall said. "I don't go out hunting for problems and I don't single anyone out. It's a fair process and it's working well."
Property owners have 10 days to comply with lot clearing notices and 30 days for structure notices. Only one notice is issued before the city can take action.
"We have a very good compliance record so far," Woodall said.
Only three properties have not complied with lot clearing notices. Each of the homes in question is vacant due to bankruptcy or foreclosure. The city plans to cut and clear the three residential yards of overgrown grass and debris.
According to Woodall, Hartselle Public Works and Parks and Recreation will handle the work. Cost to the property owner will be determined by the amount of man-hours spent by city employees to complete the task. Unpaid charges will result in a lien on said property.
Woodall said three structures on the eastside of Hartselle have not complied with notices and have recently received council approval to be removed.
"The city is not in the demolition business," Woodall said. "Our primary concern is public safety. Vacant, unsafe structures harbor vandalism and pose a threat to the community. Public safety is the goal, not tearing down houses."
Structures removed by the city are subject to the same charges and property liens as those applied to lot clearing.
"The rules of the nuisance abatement ordinance are being closely followed," Woodall said. "Most citizens obey the ordinance themselves. We hope that continues."