Lack of prosecution stalls cleanup

Published 12:04am Friday, November 2, 2012

NATCHEZ — With little progress made on prosecuting property maintenance code violators, the City of Natchez is looking at other options for enforcement.

Mayor Butch Brown said the city’s code enforcement officers are writing citations for violations such as abandoned cars and overgrown grass, but the citations are more or less just piling up and not being prosecuted in court.

The city recently moved the code enforcement officers to the Natchez Police Department so the officers could issue citations and the city could collect money from violators.

The violators, however, are not being prosecuted in municipal court and fines are not being collected as Brown said he had originally hoped.

“For whatever reason, Judge (Jim) Blough has not done it, so we are living with the cards we’ve been dealt,” Brown said.

Blough could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts spanning several weeks.

Brown said he has asked Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess to consider taking up the citations in his court.

Vess previously served as assistant judge to Blough for seven years and heard Blough’s cases when Blough was not available.

“This is in the very early planning stages, but I’m willing to help any way I can for beautification and enforcement of whatever ordinances or codes might be involved,” Vess said.

An alternative, Vess said, would be appointing a municipal judge pro temp, which must be an attorney. If there is not judge pro tem, Vess said, a justice court can fill in.

The city is also seeking to streamline its adjudication process for nuisance lots.

Adjudication is currently done per state statute at Natchez Board of Aldermen meetings. The due process for notification to the violator allowed by statute can make the adjudication a long and cumbersome process, City Attorney Hyde Carby said.

Carby said he has contacted Bill Carrigee, a consultant who advises municipalities on streamlining their code enforcement process.

The city, Carby said, intends to use $30,000 in economic development initiative grant funds to hire Carrigee to help streamline the process and tailor the city’s code to meet its needs.

One of the main issues Carby said the city will have Carrigee look at is how to streamline the lot adjudication process.

“We’re looking at if we can move these lots being adjudicated at board meetings to a citation process, much like a speeding ticket,” Carby said.

Brown said he and the aldermen are committed to move this process at a “faster pace with less bureaucracy.”

“We hope (to expedite the process),” Brown said. “We can’t continue to take 30 to 90 days getting a yard cut after it’s in violation of the ordinance.”

  • Anonymous

    So let me see if I have this right, you can’t collect your fines as it stands now, so you are going to pay someone $30,000 to tell you how?

  • Cuz64

    I think money would be better spent getting something done about the judges over there. If the matt judges let people off for molesting kids (Vess) and robbery (Sanders) it’s crazy these judges cannot be held responsible and y’all are worried about maintenance. I can’t see how the people of Natchez and Adams County keep electing any of you people it’s a joke yall are a joke

  • Anonymous

    In this day and time of hard economic times for the city to be so dang worried about something as irrelevant in the big scheme of things as the height of grass is absolutely laughable to the point of tears. But then I guess the city doesn’t care as long as they can figure out how to get more money for their coffers. Why don’t they have the police actually start enforcing the window tint laws? One only need drive the bypass one trip per day to see over a dozen over tinted windows on any given day, never enforced, or if it is only secondarily.

    Only when the city is up to snuff with all of the tasks it is responsible for should they start smacking the citizens with the long arm of the law over something as trivial as how tall the grass is. Talk about priorities!!

  • Anonymous

    Agree with that oldguy!
    $30,000 of economic development funds to be spent on a person to “streamline” the code to meet the city’s needs. Spend it on someone
    to cut that grass (spray it down like you do the bypass areas, that’s real nice looking,HA) or haul vehicles, (Which is proving to be harder than money-grubbing cities thought it was, you haul 1, you better haul them all)
    The word for today, brought to you by the articles author is “streamline,” used over and over.

  • Bob Buie Sr

    So, what’s new? Natchez continues to deteriate from the top down. Spend, spend, SPIN! A true case of a ship without a sail or a rudder. Good luck voters, they were your choice! Live with it and quit taxing my property AND MY NERVES. What will you do after you receive the consultants report? Hire a consultant to interpret it for you? We supposedly have an attorney to do these things, would it hurt his feelings if we ased him to perform? It is all a matter of lack of leadership and enforcement. We have neither. If we can’t enforce criminal laws in our city and county , we certainly can’t enforce trash laws. “If poor leadership was against the law, all would be doing 5 to 10 up river.” Overgrown yards are the least of Natchez’s problems. These property owners know that there is no “debtor’s jail” in the United States or at least there isn’t until next Tuesday.
    You might use that as a clue to solving the problem?

    Bob Buie Sr

  • Anonymous

    Won’t it be a kick in the pants for some to get busted for horrendous crime of overgrown vegetation while armed robbers and convicted felons caught with a loaded pistol in their possession an on their person are all turned loose. The leadership acts as though they think manicured yards are going to turn our economy around, fix the economy around here and maybe people will have enough money to cut their grass. I’m a lot more interested in them stopping the real crime, but then you must have judges that will actually hand out punishment.

    LORD, please, have mercy on us all!

  • Anonymous

    You can also save that $30,000 and save even more money by cutting off the Judge’s check until he starts working again.

  • Anonymous

    This is so typical of this place! Can’t find their behind with both hands.

  • Wilson Phillips

    Yes. Hit them in the pocketbook. A judge is elected to do a job for the community. If he does not want to do what the community has tasked him with, then just don’t pay him. He will have to make up his mind whether to do the job or look for a new job.

    This would work with Let’em Loose Lillie too.

  • Wilson Phillips

    By the way, I find it hilarious that the city wants to fine people for letting their lawns get 8 inches tall. How about we fine the city for not mowing the medians. You can pull up to some intersections and not be able to see the traffic coming down the street, because the weeds are taller than your car. 8 inches? Seriously?

    We can only afford to mow the ditches on the side of the road three times a year, but we are going to send those crews to mow people’s lawns? Who thought this up?