Codes barely able to keep up with violations

It’s the dog days of summer and nobody wants to live next to a residential or commercial property that has high grass and weeds or garbage left out to rot in the sun.

Unfortunately, too many city residents are encountering just that nuisance as many property owners are either ignoring code restrictions and warnings or are unable to get to the maintenance for one reason or another.

“It’s the worst year yet for high grass and weeds,” said Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator who said he tries to keep a tight grasp on the problems but has only four codes enforcement officers able to do the job.

Gerardi said the grass in many spots has exceeded the six-inch height limit under city ordinance. The ordinance is readily available upon request and able to be viewed on the city Website, he said.

Weeds are springing forth from concrete, pavement cracks and other locations.

Garbage is being left to rot in the simmering heat, bringing the opportunity of vermin such as rats, feral animals and safety and health hazards, he said.

One particular house in the 900 block of Tucker Street remains unoccupied and the owner, who lives in Eureka, California, hasn’t paid real estate taxes for three years, he said.

The grass there is about 20 inches high and the only solution is to have the city pay for a maintenance person to work on it.

Gerardi said he and the other enforcement officers try to first work with the property owners. The landlord has not responded to citations and letters, he said of the Tucker Street property.

The next step would be to issue a warrant but that isn’t going to happen to bring a property violator back from the West Coast to here, he said.

Most of the property code violations can cost homewoners up to $2,000 per violation, he said. But that doesn’t happen without plenty of warning and urging by the department personnel, he noted.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said when he took over about 12 years ago there were more than 180 blighted residential and commercial properties.

But the blight is structural and even the Tucker Street property is structurally sound, Gerardi said.

It just looks like a jungle all around it, he said as he displayed photographs he took as evidence.

Numerous places throughout the city are looking shabby, including a former barber shop on Washington Boulevard, which has weeds poking up from its parking lot.

The newly resurfaced tennis courts at Brandon Park are expected to be a big draw but the baseball fields behind it look as though they have been abandoned, according to a city public works employee.

“It’s because those in charge of upkeep have left it go,” the city employee said.

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