Often something is being done, explained Code Enforcement Board Officer Bill Decker, it just takes time. There are certain procedures that are followed for every case of someone being in violation of a city ordinance and those procedures can take time.
“I can't go out there and have a person arrested for not mowing their yard,” Decker said.
Decker, who has served as code enforcement board officer for Russellville for five years, said patience is crucial when it comes to taking care of violations.
For instance, Decker said he has received many calls about the burned down former Chevron station on Ninth Street.
“It's being addressed in a timely manner,” Decker said. A citation has been issued and the matter will be discussed at the next code enforcement board meeting.
The code enforcement board is made up of Russellville citizens who are concerned about keeping the city looking its best. Decker said he currently has a wonderful group of five board members, but they could use a couple of more.
Board members serve one- to three-year terms and are appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. They meet once a month to discuss situations Decker presents to them.
When it comes to burned down buildings, Decker said he'll usually give people 60 to 90 days before even approaching them about the problem because it often takes time for reports to be filed and insurance to come through.
In the case of the former Chevron station, Decker followed the standard procedure.
When an ordinance is being violated, Decker said he will first start with a request that the situation be taken care of. He might send a handwritten, informal letter notifying the person of the problem or even give them a call or speak to them in person.
After this first notice is given, a person has five to seven days to address the problem. If there is no response, a notice of code violation is sent out. This is sent certified mail or hand delivered by a police officer to make sure the violator gets the letter.
Decker said most violations are taken care of at this point. Once people are officially notified that they are in violation, they usually take action to correct the situation. Decker said he usually only issues two or three citations a month.
“Most of the time I try to get results the easy way, the courteous way,” Decker said. “You've got to have patience.”
However, if the violation has not been addressed 14 days after receipt of the notice of code violation, a citation will be issued and that involves a fine. After receiving a citation, violators have seven days to appeal before further action is taken by the code enforcement board.
Decker said the board will often give the violator 30 days to correct the problem, during which time a daily fine is assessed. If no action is taken by the end of 30 days, the city has a right to put a lien on the property and can eventually foreclose on a property.
Decker said his goal is to not let things go that far.
“We're not in it for the money,” Decker said. “We want the problem to be corrected.”
Two of the most common code violations involve abandoned vehicles and overgrown yards.
Decker explained that an abandoned vehicle is one that sits in the same place for 10 days and is inoperable or unlicensed.
For a yard to be considered overgrown, the grass must be 12 inches or taller. Decker said that during the summer, he receives many of these complaints and the challenge is often finding out who owns and is responsible for a property.
Other common problems involve trash and debris accumulating in a yard or property simply being allowed to deteriorate.
Decker said Russellville citizens should remember that they can't burn anything in the city limits without a controlled burn permit. Citizens should also know that the city does not pick up large garbage items left on the side of the road. The city only picks up things like leaves in bags and branches and limbs.
Decker is made aware of problem situations in many ways. He may notice a problem himself or be told of a problem by other city workers or citizens.
“Almost every day people will call,” Decker said.
As he listens to their concerns and takes notes on situations he is not aware of, Decker tells people to be patient and understand that he will address the problem, but it may take time.
Although Decker said some people frown on the code enforcement board, he and the board are simply doing their jobs by enforcing ordinances that the city has enacted. In doing so, they are trying to help make Russellville a better place in which to live.
“We just want the community to look better,” Decker said.
If you are interested in serving on the code enforcement board, contact Decker or Mayor Shirlee Yassney at 726-5000.