SALEM — The Rules and Ordinance Committee approved amending an ordinance for a provisional firefighter to have a wide scope on Tuesday.
The current law, according to Service Director Steve Andres, was passed to replace a firefighter on active duty with the armed forces.
He said a firefighter received an injury responding to an accident on Sunday and the ordinance needed to “include any type of absence.”
Andres said the city wasn’t prepared in a case of that type and the committee recommended the changes to the ordinance for its next meeting on Tuesday.
In other business, resident Joseph Tray addressed the committee regarding ongoing efforts at cleaning the city up.
He said ordinances are in place but people don’t know what they are. Tray called for occupancy permits for new home owners and renters, every time a residence is sold or rented.
He said it would be included in the cost of doing business while noting ultimate responsibility for taking care of property rested with the owners.
He suggested for a multi-tiered system of fines with punishments that get progressively worse.
Tray also suggested community enforcement committees who rotate around the community noting ordinance infractions on a “punch list” for the city housing inspectors.
Additionally, he proposed making banks register foreclosed properties and unpaid fines could be added as liens.
“If we enforce the rules,” he said, citizens would get the city they want.
Committee Chairman Clyde Brown called the suggestions, “very good,” and Service Director Steve Andres said he had the two housing inspectors attend to “listen to what was said.”
Andres said he a couple language changes in the ordinance to “give a little more authority to the housing inspectors.”
Andres asked Inspector Dan Rice if the ordinance should be expanded.
Rice deferred to Law Director Brooke Zellers and Andres said he wanted it expanded to owner-occupied properties “as far as cleanup.”
He said some people don’t have the money for cleanups, but “you can be of a low-income nature and still clean up your yard.”
Rice said the current laws were “sufficient” and explained the inspector’s procedure for checking properties and following up,
He said they there were 150 inspections and complaints last year and 113 failed, “but when we went back they passed.”
The inspectors work in other areas, Rice explained, noting they check contractor permits for validation.
Guest Elizabeth Thatcher asked Rice a number of questions and Rice asked if she had a copy of their checklist.
Rice, in response to other questions from guests, said residents can call the office 24 hours a day.
Thatcher asked about garbage truck spillage from collectors dropping trash.
“They won’t pick it up,” she said, and Rice explained there are six different collectors collecting at different times.
“A lot of garbage people work at night,” Thatcher said and Rice said call and they will call the garbage service.
“What about chronics?” Thatcher asked.
“We’ll go back,” Rice said.
Thatcher asked about cigarette butts, and Rice said that came under commercial properties and the fire department was in charge of inspecting them.
The discussion turned to personal, civil issues at several points.
Andres advised one guest that the inspectors worked “for me” and if there was property complaint to call him and he would refer it to the inspectors.
Andres said he wanted to make sure the housing inspector duties “reflected the ordinance.”
Rice explained there were 5,200 dwellings in the city and 1,800 were rentals and it takes about 14 months to rotate through all the rental inspections.
Brown said city council receives an inspection report every month.
“These guys (and Roy Brown) do their job,” he said.
Guest Karen Carter asked why there wasn’t a mayor’s court so fines could go to funding cleanup efforts and the inspection office.
Law Director Brooke Zellers explained there was a mayor’s court but a legal challenge forced the city to voluntarily give it up.
He said the current county municipal court arrangement precludes the city from having a mayor’s court and associated costs like a jail, food and costs for defendant’s legal counsel had to be considered.
Carter asked about abandoned houses and Andres said he had a list of the 10 worst.
“I just have to make sure our ordinances allow us to do (what we have to),” he said.
The discussion turned to getting the word out and Tray said cleaning up wasn’t going to happen overnight.
Also, one new resident complained about noise in, especially loud exhausts on trucks and motorcycles.
He called the noise “incredible.”
Zellers said state law governs there and Brown (chairman) said he will review the noise ordinance.
Also, Tod Mumpire, city council president, said there was a problem of commercial vehicles parking in his neighborhood.
He said no commercial vehicles should be parked in residential areas.
Larry Shields can be reached at lshields@salemnew