Work session yields more frustrations than solutions for councilors.
With the code enforcement process that ended with the demolition of a home at 1627 Robbins last week and another home on State St. heading in the same direction, the Augusta City Council met in a work session Monday night in order to try to find a process that could yield positive results without forcing the city to take drastic action.
As the discussion progressed, the consensus of the council and staff was that the city is doing what it can to handle problems but that process takes time and habitual offenders know the law well enough to skirt it.
“So we are doing all that we can do?” asked Mike Huddleston.
City Inspector Dan Allen said he thought his department did, for the most part, do all it could.
“I don’t know what more we could do with two of us trying to do everything we have to do,” Allen said.
City Attorney David All said the problem goes back to the homeowners and what punishments they respond to.
“I think some people pay attention when we bring them before a judge,” All said. “But others simply have no money to pay fees and fines. We can’t force that person to pay and the only other option would be to jail them which means we are paying for their keep.”
The governing body - with Holly Harper, Mike Rawlings and Mike Wallace absent - spent a great deal of time during the meeting that lasted an hour and a half discussing specific cases to insure that everything possible was being done and brainstorming about ideas that might help prevent repeat offenders.
“David (All) and I have a few ideas and we will check with other cities to see if they have any other methods that are effective,” City Manager Bill Keeper said. “I know Wichita deals with 500 of these for every one that we see. Maybe they have a better system that we could implement here.”
The resolution of the work session included Allen and his department being asked to provide regular reports about how many contacts they made in each category of violation during the month.
The council also wanted to pursue ideas on how the time allowed to bring problem properties back up to code could be shortened.
“A lot of times this can be a vicious cycle where the inspection department talks to the same people every month,” Keefer said. “We need to find a better way of dealing with that.”