July 15, 2014
What? We need code enforcement! Well, do we really have any in Jasper County? Oh, yes, we have someone we pay as a “code enforcement officer”; in fact two people seem to share in this job- Sherry Braley and Brad Cherry. But is there really code enforcement in Jasper County? Let’s look at a few facts.
ONE–At the end of 2012, Ms. Braley told the BOC she had over 100 active code enforcement citations, many in the Alcovy Shores & Rollingwood Cove area. In 2013 there were only 9 cases that went through Magistrate Court—none of which were from this area. What happened to all these citations? When a request was made for a list of citations, Ms. Braley said she no longer kept a list and didn’t have to because in essence, no one told her to or made her do so. Question: How does the County Manager or BOC know what Ms. Braley is doing if anything?
TWO–Two of the burned out houses that we know of have been brought to the attention of the code enforcement officers. What has been done about it? Nothing. One on County Line Rd. has been sitting for over 4 years.
There are others like these in the county as well. Sherry Braley has told a citizen that asked, the ordinance in Jasper County states that if there was no insurance on the property, the owner has 90 days to remove the debris; if there was insurance involved the owner has 180 days.
Blighted and burned-out properties are eye sores and bring down surrounding property values. Citizens of this county should not have to tolerate something like this being next door or in their neighborhood for a year, or two, or more. That’s the reason for code enforcement.
THIRD–– Code Enforcement obviously has no oversight from the County Manager or the BOC. So instead of making sure the people we have already hired are actually doing their jobs, we are going to hire someone else to help since Sherry and Brad are just so tremendously busy they can’t even enforce the codes on the books after a year or two of continuing violations.
And to make it worse, there are no logs or time sheets to tell us anything more than they work 8 hours a day. There is no log of what they have actually been doing during the 8 hours and how long each task might take.And if they are so very busy, why aren’t there any court records showing all these numerous violations? How much money has been collected for “violations” by our code enforcement officers and what were the violations?
Answers are very hard to find because when asked, our County Manager/Finance Director, Karen Degges, says all these things are private. She says special care has to be taken to keep everything private until the case is closed and names can’t be released of those given citations. And to even think about seeing anything, a fee must be received up front, and each item must be pulled from a file, etc. However, Ms. Braley keeps no master list and there are no citation copies to review that are kept in numerical order. In other counties you can read in the paper about the citations and violations and the owner’s names are listed! It’s hard to tell if Jasper County just keeps things private so we can’t tell if there are really any citations at all.
Because of all this secrecy, no one can know if we need another code enforcement officer or not. The BOC seems uninterested in finding out who does what and when and for how long in any department. It is easier just to hire another person; it is the government way to do things.
How many times have you gone by the “Planning and Zoning” office to get a permit, pay for your business license, or report a problem and it says CLOSED on the door? It can be any time during the day and sometimes most of the day, and no one is in the office. They are so busy “running up and down the road” as Comm. Luke put it. Doing what, he didn’t say and probably doesn’t know because no one does.
FOURTH— There are blighted properties like this all over the county–with
broken out windows, tires in the yard, and abandoned. This property is in Turtle Cove. We have been told that there are two old trailers on Jackson Lake Rd. that used to have “red stickers” (condemnation) on them in 2012, but the stickers are gone and the trailers are still there. This is true all around the county. It causes a lowering of values in the area. And isn’t that the reason the BOC had to go up on our taxes? Comm. Trammell said the values were so low that it just wasn’t bringing in enough money to run the county so they had to increase our taxes 2.15 mils just to make it—and to hire another code enforcement officer.
The county Code of Ordinances (below) will fine a citizen for failing to perform or for doing something in violation of this code. Yet, our code enforcement officers are not fined for not doing their jobs. We citizens are just taxed more to pay their salaries and give them additional help if they are doing their job or not.