The Globe City Council will hold the second and final of its two town hall meetings with the theme of community pride in city council chambers, 150 N. Pine St., Globe from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 11.
The meetings were created as a result of a lengthy council discussion on blight mitigation funding, as well as blight enforcement in general.
At its Feb. 26 meeting, council directed city staff to put an item on the March 12 agenda to create a blight enforcement task force examining the city’s current blight enforcement processes, including code requirements in Chapter 10, Article 4, Property Maintenance and Public Nuisances; administrative policies; allocation of blight enforcement funding and related city activities.
During the March 12 meeting, Globe Code Enforcement Specialist Michelle Yerkovich explained the city’s current blight enforcement process. Talking about the “foundational justification,” Yerkovich said the city is responsible for maintaining “the health, safety and welfare” of its residents.
To that end, the city provides police and fire services, as well as water and sewer infrastructure, while also ensuring that private property owners build and maintain safe structures, she said.
City code 10-04 details the legislative requirements for maintaining property that Yerkovich is responsible for enforcing. Code violations are adjudicated in city court.
On the subject of “equal enforcement,” Yerkovich said that codes must be enforced “equally and impartially.”
That means that similar violations in zone areas must be enforced equally and that, if variations do occur, there must be “a definable distinction as to why,” she said.
“Enforcement standards cannot be more or less because of who you are, who you are related to, who you went to school with, your last name (or first name), or if you’re from Globe or not,” Yerkovich said.
Key property restrictions in the city include abandoned or junk vehicles; garbage or junk; blocking public rights-of-way or line of sight; live weeds or dead plants; stagnant pools or water; graffiti degrading “the beauty, appearance or value of the property;” collapsed walls and broken windows.
Yerkovich defined a “dilapidated structure” as one that has “fallen into partial ruin or decay,” that has lost structural stability; is likely to fall or collapse; has exterior walls that list, lean or buckle, or constitute a public health nuisance.
A dilapidated structure may be one that a county health officer has deemed “unfit for human habitation” or that the fire chief has determined to be a fire hazard, she said.
It can also be considered a portion of a structure remaining on site after demolition.
A dilapidated structure can also be one damaged enough by lack of maintenance to become an attractive nuisance to children; a harbor for vagrants, criminal or immoral persons; a place enabling persons to commit unlawful or immoral acts; or a site for infestation of insects, rodents or other pests, she said.
“Our enforcement goal is to correct violations and gain compliance with the maintenance code,” she told the council.
Compliance tools include letters, meaning “multiple contacts documented by letters” and civil citations requiring appearance before the city magistrate and possible civil fines.
The two forms of abatement are “administrative,” where, after notification and potential appeal, the city “abates the violation” and puts a lien on the property; and “judicial,” where the city pays an attorney to petition the court based on Arizona law.
As to the difference between citation and abatement, citation is a formal complaint filed with the court that initiates a court appearance and possible hearing or payment of fines.
Abatement is an administrative process following written code, resulting in demolition of a dilapidated structure or clean-up of a property and placing a lien on the existing land or property to recoup fees.
The average cost of abatement is $8,000 to $12,000, Yerkovich said.
Mayor Al Gameros said he would like to see certain abatement funds designated in the budget “instead of waiting for the city to sell the property.”
The city decides on a case-to-case basis which avenue to take in cleaning up a public nuisance, Yerkovich said.
The case/citation timeline can take a total of four to seven months, while the abatement timeline can take four to six months.
As to current enforcement efforts, Yerkovich said in the past two years the city has initiated 11 abatement cases, eight of which were resolved by owners at no cost to the city, while three others were completed by the city.
Since Jan. 1, there have been 90 properties/cases initiated, 12 of them on Broad Street, she said.
“There were 90 properties that had one or more code violations — at those 90 properties, there were 190 code violations,” Yerkovich told the Silver Belt. “Twenty-four individual violations were corrected. Nineteen cases are closed (all their violations are corrected). There are still 165 violations that need to be corrected.”
As for 2019 abatement cases, six have been initiated, with one or two expected to be completed, with the earliest possible completion in June 2019.
Globe Police Chief Dale Walters said that “sometimes the perception of what the problem is may not be what’s going on.”
If one sees people inside abandoned buildings, they could be either workers or trespassers, so call the police for them to make the determination.
If there is indeed a felony crime in progress, then that is a police matter and not the job of Yerkovich, he said.
“We can follow up on some of the complaints,” Walters said. “There is a huge amount of workload, so it’s going to take some time.”
Walters went on to say that anonymous complaints can be “very helpful for information, but we can’t get back to them.”
“I know that there are citizens who have been waiting for relief for a long time,” he said. “All I can say is that there is light at the end of the tunnel and I’m pretty sure it’s not a train.”
Councilman Fernando Shipley said, “Right now, the person who has filed a complaint has no idea what the status is,” to which Yerkovich replied, “I don’t mind if they call me and ask about the status.”
Jepson said that perhaps the city needs to look at its follow-up procedures.
“What do we do about the ‘nothing works’ property owners?” asked Councilwoman Charlene Giles, to which Jepson replied that the city has “a very well-written code.”
“It’s a matter of how to hammer — not hammer — how to not let up,” said Jepson and Giles responded, “I like ‘hammer.’”
Yerkovich said there are property owners who will pay the fine but not fix up the property, which the city actually prefers them to do “instead of just paying us the fine.”
Shipley talked about potential hardship cases, such as a 90-year old man who has to decide between “paying the light bill and getting pills.”
Jepson called Yerkovich a compassionate person who is “the right person for the job.”
Councilman Freddy Rios pointed out that the city has codes “to protect the city and to protect the citizens.”
“We created the codes and now we are bound by them,” Rios said. “I don’t believe we should be shaming our citizens,” describing code enforcement as “a balancing act.”
Giles said, “Let my comments not be misinterpreted,” explaining that she was referring to repeat offenders, and not to hardship cases.
As for how to fund current abatements, Yerkovich suggested reallocating $10,000 from the Ash Street property sale in advance. Another option is to transfer money from the city’s contingency fund at the time the council approves selection of the abatement contractor.
A complaint form is available online at www.globeaz.gov or at Globe City Hall, 150 N. Pine St.