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Cleanup of city a frustrating process


This property on Burdin Boulevard is frequently brought to the attention of the Grand Coulee City Council as a violator of the city's nuisance code. The city's code enforcer, Jolene Mills, has stated that both the tenant and property owner have been warned numerous times to clean the property up, to no avail. - Roger S. Lucas photo

Grand Coulee is having trouble making its public nuisance ordinance work.

City council members last week heard two local residents complain about problems in their neighborhoods, saying that the city isn't doing anything about it.

A Partello Street resident complained that a neighbor had wood piled next to his property line and and also a bark pile that is infested with bugs.

In that case, city Code Enforcer Jolene Mills said that according to the city's nuisance ordinance the homeowner in question is not in violation of the code. A drive-by inspection showed that the woodpile was covered with a blue tarp; other than that, the property appeared cared for.

Mills said maybe the complaining resident "doesn't like to look at a woodpile just outside his front door," but "it isn't a violation of code."

The council also heard a complaint from Becky Billups, who lives on Burdin Boulevard.

She has appeared before the council at least a dozen times to complain about a neighborhood problem of old cars, tires and junk in general that she faces every day.

Mills said that she has repeatedly advised the tenant of the property in question that he is in violation of the city's code.

"I have also contacted the owner of the property, several times. No response," Mills said. "Occasionally they will move a car around, but the problem is never corrected."

"We are all frustrated at times," Mills said, "but we need to keep account of people's property rights. What is a nuisance to one person might not be to another."

"Still, the city wants residents to file complaints when they think the code is being violated, and we will check it out," Mayor Paul Townsend said. "The names of those making complaints are not used, so it is a private situation."

"Our code enforcer has had tremendous success by convincing people that they need to clean their places up, I think in maybe 75 percent of the time," Townsend added.

When Mills spots a problem area in the city, her first response is to knock on the door and review the violation with the party.

"If it isn't corrected, I go back again," she said. "If it isn't corrected then, the next step is a formal letter saying the party has 20 days to correct the problem."

The enforcement cycle usually stops there.

However, a code violator who doesn't comply with a letter warning could face a $250 citation and an invitation to appear before a municipal judge to explain why the correction wasn't made.

The city doesn't like to go this far, but has in the past slapped a lien against a property for non-payment of a citation.

Billups repeatedly has asked the council, "Why doesn't the city do something about it?"

She is always politely received, but appears frequently at council meetings to ask the city to do something about the problem. She told the council that the problem affects "property values in the area."

Mills is frustrated. She has been code enforcer for about a year, and has had a number of successes where violators respond and fix problems. But she can point to two pages of violators who still haven't corrected ordinance violations.

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