Code enforcement crackdown has some unhappyLocal couple say they feel poorly treated by city official when notice was issued, but he says no insult intended.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Linda Barber said there’s one word to describe how she and her husband feel about a complaint registered against them for allegedly not properly maintaining a rental home: Livid.
Mitchell Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Lanning issued an Order to Correct to the Barbers for a house they own at 508 W. Cedar Ave. The order cited an unpainted section of the porch, peeling paint on the garage and leaves left piled on the property.
The Barbers were told to correct the problems or face a $500 daily fine and/or 30 days in jail.
“I told him, this is like a slap in the face to us homeowners who have been here a while and keep our property up,” Linda Barber said.
“(It’s) very unfair and too strict. They are putting everybody into that one category with people who didn’t keep up their property and are very bad,” she said. “We take very good care of our property.”
After the Order to Correct was sent to them, Benny Barber went to the house and spray painted the porch and garage and put the leaves into bags.
He was so upset, he accidentally spray-painted a bush next to the porch.
Linda Barber said the couple used to live in the house before they moved to a place in the country. Now her husband’s father, J.W. Barber, 81, lives there.
She said J.W. Barber mows the lawn on a regular basis and the couple plants flowers and does a spring clean-up every year.
“Our property is always very neat and well-kept,” Barber said.
She said the term “unsightly” on the city notice was particularly offensive to her.
“Something needs to be changed with the way you treat people who have lived here a long time and treat their property properly,” Barber said. “We’d like the City Council to think about this.”
Although they have corrected the problems, they have asked for an appeal hearing.
She said that’s one way to bring how people are being treated to the forefront.
Lanning said since they have corrected the problems, there’s no reason to hold an appeal hearing. He said if they have a problem with him, they should contact the city.
J.W. Barber said he feels Lanning and the city are too brusk with people. He said he spotted Lanning outside the house and went to talk to him, but the code enforcement officer drove away.
Lanning told Linda Barber he did not see her father-in-law. But J.W. Barber said he feels offended.
“The way they’re treating people, h—-, you might as well tear the house down and burn it,” he said.
Lanning said if he had seen Barber he would have stopped to speak with him.
“I don’t have any problem speaking with people,” he said. Another Mitchell resident, Kenny Nisbet, also complained of a notice he received.
Last week, Nisbet called The Daily Republic and said he felt the notice was too harsh and unfair.
He could not be reached for further comment; Nisbet died on Tuesday.
Lanning said he does not mean to offend anyone, although he has received a few complaints this spring.
“I’m using the statutes I have to work with,” he said.
He said most people, including the Barbers, have responded by taking care of the problem.
“They jumped right in and got it looking great,” he said.
Linda Barber said she felt the Order to Correct, with the term “unsightly” and the threat of large fines and jail time, was too harsh. She said she asked Lanning if a second document could be used without that type of language.
Lanning said that doesn’t seem practical.
“I guess it comes down to everybody’s opinion on what’s going to be minor and what is not,” he said.
Lanning said he may write more specific descriptions on the order to let people know exactly what they need to correct. That might ease some of the surprise and reduce some of the irritation people feel, he said.
“I can understand that,” Lanning said.
He said he’s doing things a bit different than when he was hired in April 2011. The former Highway Patrol trooper focused on lawns last year, he said, but this year is looking out for other problems.
“I guess I’m kind of attacking this different than how I did it last year,” he said.