Originally created 06/18/97

Residents protest sign plan



A plan to shame property owners into cleaning up their rundown houses and overgrown lots will be revisited after several inner-city residents complained to commissioners Tuesday that the code violation signs could do more harm than good.

"We have concerns that the signs could bring about additional problems," said Charlotte Watkins. "We ask for more time" to come up with other solutions.

Commissioners voted to appoint a subcommittee of residents and housing officials to look into the blight problem.

At their June 3 meeting, commissioners approved a plan to put up the code violation signs to embarrass homeowners into compliance. Commissioners Lee Beard and J.B. Powell voted against the sign posting plan, and Commissioner Willie Mays abstained.

If a violation is not corrected within 15 days of notification, a sign will go up stating that the property is in violation of city code and asking people to ask the owner to do so.

Upon conviction of a code violation, another sign would go up stating, "Slum Property! The owner of this property, (name, address, phone number) is in violation of county law and chooses not to bring their property into compliance, thereby significantly contributing to the blight in this neighborhood."

Ms. Watkins and other residents said the signs would lead many people to label the neighborhoods where the signs occur as slums. Also, many of the homeowners are on fixed incomes and can't afford to fix up the property, she said.

Commissioners were expected to vote on the results of a four-month, $90,000 compensation study, but the issue was not added to the agenda.

Mayor Pro Tem Freddie Handy said he and other commissioners wanted more time to examine the results.

"The consultant took four months. The administrator had it for three and a half weeks. They only gave us an hour and a half last Thursday to make a decision," he said. "That's not enough time."

The study examined the salaries and employment policies that covers the city's work force of more than 2,000 people. Results indicate that many city employees were getting paid less than their county counterparts for similar work.

Commissioners are expected to take up the issue again at their next meeting in two weeks. The delay means pay adjustments will not begin July 1 as originally planned, Mr. Oliver said.

"We can't make it," Mr. Oliver said. "It will be pushed back at least two weeks, depending on when commissioners take action on it."

In the plan, Mr. Oliver also recommends eliminating about 80 percent of the city's car allowances to employees in favor of paying them 31.5 cents per mile of work-related driving. The city spends about $268,000 per year on car allowances.

Also Tuesday, commissioners voted to:

  • Assume operations of Newman Tennis Center on Wrightsboro Road, effective July 1.
  • Grant a zoning change that will allow a mini-warehouse development at the intersection of Deans Bridge Road and Inwood Drive. Several nearby residents opposed the facility, arguing that the business would lead to a dangerous increase in traffic. Commissioners J.B. Powell, Henry Brigham and Willie Mays voted against the plan.