Code enforcement cases seem to get lost in the shuffle

Published 4:47 pm Saturday, March 23, 2013

It is easy to drive around Selma and find abandoned houses and yards that are landscaped with rusting items that don’t look anything azalea bushes and dogwood trees. We always tout the greatness and beauty of our city — we still think Selma’s historical architecture and loving warmth make up for these little eyesores — but what we really need is someone or something to enforce the codes that are in place to keep it that way.

There are more than a few problems in the code enforcement system in the city.

Despite the fact that one code enforcement officer is on temporary leave due to health complications, there are far too few officers who are allowed to actually issue citations.

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At Thursday’s Selma City Council work session, one council member asked municipal judge Prince Chestnut about how often they see environmental code violation cases come through the court.

“We don’t have a substantial amount at this time,” Chestnut told the council, and added that every once and a while when they do get several in they will set aside time to review them in court. “They are kind of just thrown in with all of the other cases.”

The council members seemed shocked to hear that there were, “too few environmental code citation cases” to prosecute all at one time in court due to the fact that each council member gets multiple calls about violations every week.

“Well there ought to be,” Ward 3 Council member Susan Keith said about their not being enough cases seen in court.

And we agree. These yards and violations around the area are obvious, ugly and really put a damper on the fervent efforts of city leaders to beautify Selma.

There are too few officers allowed to issue citations and our request is the city find a way to add officers and increase their influence in the citation process.

We also want to prompt the council to learn the code enforcement process step-by-step so they can see where code cases get lost in the shuffle of other court matters, police matters and city business.

This task will take the council working together and not pointing fingers of blame so the code process can be tweaked and improved and the city will become more appealing aesthetically. The council will discuss appropriating more money in order to hire more code officers and hopefully find a way to rid the city of eyesores at their meeting this week.