|Code Enforcer Ride Along|
|Friday, 02 November 2012 11:32|
The city has been using green stickers since July to let residents know something on their property is not up to city code. If you are not home, a green tag is stuck on the front door by the Community Improvement Official, Josh Crouse. The sticker includes specific the city ordinance in violation. It is not a ticket or a fine -- just the initial step in fixing a problem. CRI's Jon Hoffmann went on a ride along with Crouse to find out more about the role of Oskaloosa's Community Improvement Official.
"On a normal day I just kind of drive around and look for obvious things, look for things people have complained." - Josh Crouse, Community Improvement Official
Josh Crouse is a reserve firefighter and a paramedic. He also works part time as Oskaloosa's Community Improvement Offical making $13.80 an hour. His job requires him to tell people to clean up and adhere to city code, which can come with some pushback from residents.
"Most of the time I hear people complaining about how they think it is ridiculous that the city is paying for this that the city has this position. So that's what I hear the most. Most people are pretty calm with me, at least to my face."- Josh Crouse, Community Improvement Official
Crouse's job is to enforce city code put in place to keep the community safe and attractive for residents and visitors alike. Common violations include getting residents to clean up garbage, scrap metal, and salvage and abandoned vehicles, mowing grass and weeds in the summer, and clearing snow from sidewalks and around fire hydrants in the winter.
"This is something that caught my eye earlier today. So basically at this point I will stop and take some pictures and what I see here, I mean it is pretty self explanatory."- Josh Crouse, Community Improvement Official
This resident asked not to be shown on-camera, but this is a typical scenario of Crouse addressing some issues as part of his job.
Obviously a TV doesn't belong there
You are aware of that, so and then grass and weeds. The city has got and ordinance that your grass has to be less than 12 inches tall.
-Oh we'll mow the grass here in a few minutes, but I don't think it is that tall.
Well, I was talking more about this stuff here and right there.
-Yeah I can pull some of these weeds.
Your yard actually looks fine. That's fine with me.
-Upfront is not so bad.
-It is back here it is hidden.
Yeah it is but ...
-It is hidden but it isn't.
So, I will give you this. It says three days. Normally what I tell people is since I've talked to you. I've made contact with you that you can disregard the three days.
-We can get upto a month?
If you want, well I'd like to see improvement in two weeks. If I can see some improvement in two weeks. You know it may not be perfect in two weeks, but then I'll come back in another two weeks after that and as long as I can keep seeing improvement I am happy.
-Awesome thank you.
"So that is basically one of them. Obviously we made contact with the homeowner. A lot of times during the day we won't -- we will have to leave a green tag and wait for them to call us back. And sometimes people won't even call us back. They make the improvement without calling and as long as I see the improvement you know I am not going to keep bothering them." - Josh Crouse, Community Improvement Official
"We will stop here at this van that's for sale in the front yard. So at this point I will just try and make contact with the people that live here. If they don't live here, I will leave the green tag on the front door. It says right on it. Van cannot be parked on the front yard. It needs to be parked on a hard surface or a driveway and down below its got what ordinance it is if they would like to look that up on the city website they can find the whole codebook there. They can read it and understand it a little bit more in detail."- Josh Crouse, Community Improvement Official
Crouse says about 50% of the people appreciate what he does and the other 50% don't like it at all, but like it or not he has noticed improvements since taking on the job in July.
"I've seen an improvement since I've started at the number of houses that I've had to stop at and I know it is hard for the public to see that, but with me that has to deal with each property that I go to it is easy for me to see improvements."- Josh Crouse, Community Improvement Official
For CRI Weekly News, I'm Jon Hoffmann.
There are some cases where residents will not bring their property up to code, if that happens the city attorney takes legal action. The cost of doing so will then be assessed on the homeowners taxes. City Attorney Dave Dixon says legal action is needed about 20 times a year. If you want to know more about the city ordinances you can find all of them listed on the cities website www.oskaloosaiowa.org. There you will also find how to report a code violation that you would like to see fixed.