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City clean up issues get board’s attention

From a spirited public hearing on lot cleaning to cityofficials’ concerns about handbills, litter and garbage, communityappearance was a frequent topic at Tuesday’s meeting of the mayorand board of aldermen.

Jewell Bland Harris was among several citizens called before theboard for a public hearing Tuesday to discuss clean up of theirproperty. Armed with photos she took of other messy property,Harris said there were many others to be put on the city’slist.

“If someone makes a complaint against me, you need to go aroundtown and see what else needs to be done,” Harris told cityofficials.

Furthermore, Harris called the old Gibson’s shopping center areaan eyesore and also criticized Whitworth College.

“It’s been sitting there all these years, and it’s been ahazard,” Harris said.

Harris said she had paid taxes for 18 years and, in her work,had brought many others to town who also pay taxes. However, sinceshe’s been in town, Harris said she’s been harassed and was being”picked on” in this case.

During an amusing exchange with the woman, city officials deniedher claim.

“All we’re tying to do is help clean it up,” said Ward 2Alderman Terry Bates. “We’re not picking on you.”

Mayor Bill Godbold questioned the extent of Harris’research.

“Have you been by Whitworth lately?” the mayor asked, alludingto efforts to restore the campus for the state fine artsschool.

Harris had been called before the board about her property at1023 West Congress St. Harris said a greenhouse was to be torn downand grass had been cut.

Harris and other property owners who appeared before the boardlast night were granted 30-day extensions to act. If propertyowners do not address their situations, city crews will clean upthe property and charge the work to the property owners.

In another community appearance matter, litter and garbageremain a concern for city officials. Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameronsaid the problem seems to be getting worse instead of better.

“We need to do something to make a dent in it,” Cameronsaid.

Officials said city crews cannot keep litter off streets, and acommunity service program through city court was called intoquestion.

“To me, it’s a joke,” said Jimmy Griffin, street departmentsuperintendent, saying people assigned to work off fines either donot show up or don’t do much when they do.

Godbold said clean-up efforts would have to start with peoplecleaning up their own neighborhoods. Griffin expressed similarthoughts.

“To me, it’s a lack of pride,” Griffin said.

Griffin suggested a heavy fine plus making people clean up thestreet they litter. Once a ticket or two is issued, word would getout and people would stop, he said.

Brookhaven Police Chief Fred McKee said officers have writtentickets for littering.

Following more discussion, Bates called for better enforcementof litter laws.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’ve got to get a ticket or two outsome way,” Bates said.

Also during the meeting, aldermen backed off a proposedordinance governing distribution of handbills, circulars and otheradvertising materials in all property zones, residential andcommercial, in the city limits. The ordinance would have prohibitedthe distribution in all areas of the city and set up a $100misdemeanor fine for violation.

“That’s pretty tough,” said Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. JerryWilson.

Fernald said no other city he knew of would have an ordinance asstrict as the one proposed. Officials also discussed how to enforcethe ordinance, free speech issues and private property issues.

Cameron said his concern was not flyers, but beer cans, fastfood bags and similar items.

“That’s our biggest problem,” Cameron said.

Ward 4 Alderman John Roberts said he did not ask for a newordinance, but only an expansion of the current ordinanceprohibiting flyers in the downtown area. Other aldermen indicatedthey wanted to make the current ordinance city-wide in publicproperty areas such as streets and sidewalks.

“If you leave the ordinance you have in place and enforce it,you have what you need,” Fernald said.