Trash or Treasure? Part Two
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
In Part Two, we take a look at code enforcement officers--the people who can become your best friend if you're trying to keep a personal garbage dump out of your neighborhood.
Frustrated homeowners filed more than 10,000 last year, just within Gainesville city limits. That translates to almost a thousand a month. The code enforcement officers decide if the city can step in and clean up your personal eyesore.
A code enforcement officer's work is never done. For as quickly as one property is taken care of... two or three more take its place.
The eyes of Jeff Look are constantly scanning. He's been a Gainesville code enforcement officer for five years. He says many property owners think it's their right to do what they want with their own property.
"It certainly is their right, but we work for their neighbor," Look. "The neighbor, his rights are being violated by having to live next to it."
Though Alachua County has fewer problems than Gainesville, they can be much, much larger in scale. One property near Hawthorne had 30,000 tires that were cleaned out over a several month span. Though the weeds have grown back, the trash is gone.
Jackie McLain has her work cut out for her. She's 1 of just 4 code enforcement officers that covering the county--an area 10 times larger than Gainesville. They investigate about 800 complaints a year.
In contrast, 13 code enforcement officers cover gainesville. But they're responsible for a whopping 10,000 complaints each year.
"I pretty much look at my job as #1 to educate the public because a lot of times they don't know," says McLain.
Though some citizens that live near eyesores like Thomas Watkins say enough is enough and officers should focus their attention elsewhere. He moved into the 5th Avenue/Pleasant Street neighborhood about a year ago for its beauty and eclectic personality.
Across the street is a home that some would consider an eyesore, with broken windows, a car that doesn't look like it's been driven in ages parked in the grass, and a front porch filled to overflowing with furniture. Surprisingly, the homeowner is a former member of the Historic Preservation Board, George Tedford.
But Watkins doesn't mind.
"He's a great neighbor and I appreciate living across the street from him," says Watkins. "He watches the house when we are out of town."
Tedford has more than 70,000 dollars in fines but he didn't want to talk about it.
With that ever-growing total, you may be wondering does anyone ever really pay up? We'll get to that Wednesday.
But for now, Watkins just wishes the city would shift their attention elsewhere.
"To the extent that I have concerns about property in the neighborhood, it would be ones that are boarded up and not being used at all," says Watkins. And of course, George's is not that."
So as you can see, everyone has their own opinion. But the final word rests with the city or county ordinances. You can find those at www.municode.com or at city hall.
Wednesday, we take a look at the worst of the worst. What does it take to bring in the bulldozers and who pays for it? We'll show you when we wrap up our special Trash or Treasure report Wednesday.
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