North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

October 22, 2013

Ordinance gives some officials authority to write citations

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

GARDENDALE — A new ordinance arms certain Gardendale officials with the power to write citations that result in monetary fines.

On Monday, the Gardendale City Council authorized building inspectors, the fire marshal and the city clerk — or their designees — to issue citations to residents who violate certain ordinances.

“This is aimed at protecting property owners and keeping the city looking good,” said councilman Blake Guinn. “This ordinance has the teeth we believe it needs.”

The laws have been on the books since at least 1999, but there was no means to enforce them until now.

Inspections Department Superintendent Robert Ryant said individuals can pay their fines much like a speeding ticket. Failure to pay could result in jail time in addition to the fines.

He added that inspectors will not write citations upon residents’ first violation; rather, they will give warnings and then issue citations later if the violations are not corrected.

Ryant said some of the most common infractions include overgrown weeds and grass at foreclosed properties; abandoned and dangerous structures; and people permanently parking vehicles in their front yards in the grass, which he said is a problem because it wears out the grass and causes mud and silt to accumulate in the streets.

Inspection Department vehicles will be outfitted this week with new insignia that designates employees as code enforcement officers.

Ryant said inspectors do not ride around looking for infractions for which to write citations; rather, they work on a “complaint basis.”

Building inspectors can issue citations to individuals who violate four ordinances: No. 2013-02, regarding zoning; No. 97-17, regarding garbage; No. 99-09, regarding storm water management; or No. 2010-02, the International Property Maintenance Code.

The fire marshal can write citations to those who violate Ordinance No. 2010-02, International Fire Codes; specifically Section 307 regarding open burning.

The city clerk is authorized to issue citations to anyone who violates any ordinances that levy or assess a sales tax, use tax, business license tax, rental tax, lease tax or lodging tax.

Copies of all ordinances are available at Gardendale City Hall.

The fines for citations are: $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, $300 for the third offense, and $500 and/or up to 180 days in jail for the fourth offense.

In a related matter, the council also adopted an ordinance providing for the abatement of vegetation and unsafe structures. The ordinance rescinds three other ordinances.

In other business, the council:

• appointed election officers and approved their pay for the Nov. 12 special election for a 5-mill municipal ad valorem tax in Gardendale

• hired Adam Crane as a full-time firefighter

• approved a 5K Walk for Foster Care and Adoption on Nov. 23

• voted to cut the grass and assess the fees to the owners at three properties