Aldermen consider nuisance property law

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A city alderman is urging his fellow boardmembers to pass an ordinance allowing authorities to targetnuisance properties in town.

    At Tuesday night’s city board meeting, Ward Six Alderman DavidPhillips presented an ordinance to the board and said he would liketo pass it at the next board meeting.

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    Phillips described an ongoing problem in his ward as the cause ofhis concern.

    Brookhaven police received 80 complaints in 2011 concerning atrailer park in Ward Six, Phillips said.

    Police Chief Pap Henderson told the board Tuesday night hisdepartment has already visited the trailer park several times thisyear. Complaints have originated from residents of the trailer parkand neighbors around the park, said the chief.

    The complaints from the property include robbery, armed robbery,threats and harassment, Phillips said.

    Phillips said the police can deal with the people involved inindividual incidents, but no ordinances or codes currently on thebooks provide the city with leverage over the property owner.

    “This is a tool we need,” Phillips said.

    The ordinance Phillips recommended defines a “chronic nuisanceproperty” as one “on which three or more nuisance activities occuror exist during any 60 day period.”

    The ordinance further defines nuisance activity to includeviolations of laws and regulations relating to junk vehicles, firecodes and health and sanitation.

    Any criminal conduct occurring would also count as nuisanceactivity under the ordinance. Incidents where a property residentwas the victim of a crime and had no control over the criminal actwould be excluded.

    Under the dictates of the ordinance, property owners would benotified once their property was classified as a chronic nuisanceand given 10 days to present city authorities with a plan to abatethe problem.

    If the property owner takes no action the ordinance provides for amaximum penalty of $1,000. Continual inaction by the property ownerallows the city to seek court action and levy additional fines.

    Aldermen expressed general approval of the intent behind theordinance.

    Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes took the opportunity to askHenderson for an update on a series of early January incidents inwhich car windows were broken and vandalized. Henderson said nosuspects have currently been identified, but stressed the vandalismhappened over a two-day period and has not reoccurred.

    Mark Williams, with the Department of Environmental Quality,appeared before the board to discuss municipal recycling programs.He stressed the need for cooperation among communities in theregion.

    “Quality and quantity are the most important factors in developinga successful recycling program,” Williams said.

    The rural nature of Mississippi makes those factors difficult toobtain unless communities pool their recyclable material.

    The board discussed the matter with Williams but took noaction.

    The board also entered an executive session to discuss a hearingheld Jan. 5 at which the board heard the appeal of former city fireinspector Andre Spiller. In July, the board requested Spillerresign or be terminated.

    Following the Jan. 5 hearing, a decision by the board was tableduntil Tuesday’s meeting.

    Following last night’s executive session, Ward Two Alderman TerryBates made a motion to reinstate Andre Spiller to his job. Ward OneAlderman Dorsey Cameron seconded the motion.

    Ward Five Alderman D.W Maxwell offered an amendment to Bates’motion. Under Maxwell’s amendment, Spiller would be reinstated withtwo days suspension for two days of absences and denied any backpay.

    Cameron also seconded Maxwell’s motion to amend. Maxwell, Cameronand Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson all voted for the amendment.Bates, Estes, Phillips and Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan allvoted against it.

    To Bates’ original motion to reinstate Spiller, Maxwell, Bates,Cameron and Wilson all voted for it. Estes, Phillips and Sullivanvoted against it.

    Mayor Les Bumgarner then vetoed the successful motion to reinstateSpiller. The first opportunity aldermen would have to attempt tooverride the veto, which would take a two-thirds majority, would beat the next board meeting after the veto becomes part of themeeting’s minutes.