UPDATE 10/16/12 @ 7:35 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The proof is in the pictures. Homes with high grass and weeds nearly covering the entire property have been cleared of brush and debris. Overgrown properties filled with trash have been transformed from eyesores to open park areas.
It's all thanks to the Huntington Police Department's code enforcement division. Compliance officers, armed with the city's new junk ordinance law, are now cracking down by ticketing owners of dilapidated properties.
"The most surprising thing is the positive response from people," Code Enforcement Officer John Baker said. "They're actually happy that we're doing it."
Since July 1, officers have handed out 827 tickets. However, the majority of those ticketed [76 percent] agreed to clean up the problem before having to pay a fine.
The cleanup has been such a success, the city is now added a third code enforcement officer. It's a move current officers say will help target the city's west side, while still keeping up enforcement throughout the entire city.
"That's one of the reasons for bringing a third code enforcement on, so we can target the river to rail area without limiting what were doing in other areas," Baker said.
Officers admit the process can sometimes be a slow one.
"The people that are really frustrated are people that have to live next door to the properties," Baker said.
People like Judy May who worries about an abandoned home just two houses down the street.
"It's very frustrating," May said. "I keep my property up, I think other people should do likewise."
We took May's concerns to the code enforcement officers. They tell WSAZ.com they have issued several citations on the property, even as recently as Saturday. However, they say the owner died and they have not been able to prove who's the responsible property.
It's just proof how tedious the job can be for code enforcement officers.
Council members adopted a resolution Monday night to enter into a grant contract for more than $26,000 to add another such officer.
Mayor Steve Williams said the program already has had significant results -- with many neighborhood residents cleaning up their property when they notice fellow residents being cited. Citations may be handed out for violations, including excessively high grass and litter and furniture scattered about someone's property.
In fact, many people know the ordinance as the Huntington Couch Ordinance.
In other business, council:
The law means items meant for indoor use like couches, mattresses and appliances are no longer legally allowed to be stored outside on property in Huntington city limits.
"That is such a stereotypical way people look at West Virginia, and I don't like that because we are not that way here," one neighbor said.
The old rules about junked cars, trash, tall grass and weeds are back in the spotlight.
The municipal judge can drop the citation against a home owner if the problem is taken care of by the time court rolls around.
Otherwise, the fines and court appearances will add up
"If they don't show," Mayor Steve Williams explained, "one of the things we are thinking of doing is going on the property ourselves, clearing it and putting a lien on the property. To get it clear."
"We know there are some folks that just wont do it and municipal court gives us the ability to do all sorts of things," he said.
The mayor also says there are plenty of things neighbors can do to help keep their neighborhoods nice including helping each other out.
There are several ways you can report a violation.
You can call the tip line at (304) 696-4444, the mayor's office at (304) 696-5540 or go to the website by clicking on the link below.
Once a complaint is made, a member of the Code Enforcement Unit will come take a closer look. If a citation is issued, the owner will have a certain amount of time.
On the first day of the ordinance being in place, code enforcement officer John Baker said he alone took 17 calls.
Baker says this new rule will allow him and the other members of the Huntington Code Enforcement Unit to expedite the clean-up process.
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