A clean and attractive Tooele City is no easy task to achieve. It requires vigilance by city officials and workers, plus cooperation and pride from citizens. Without such a commitment, Main Street and neighborhoods likely wouldn’t be as free of unsightly junk.
Regrettably, part of that vigilance and commitment requires the use of enforcement. The city has a nuisance ordinance to encourage compliance from citizens whose perspective of cleanliness doesn’t match community norms. Such enforcement by the city has produced a mixed bag of results over the years, with apparent frustration and futility felt by city officials and residents alike.
But as reported in last Thursday’s story, “Tooele beefs up nuisance statutes,” the Tooele City Council has adopted a revised nuisance ordinance that may make Mayor Patrick Dunlavy’s call to “clean up the community” easier on both the city and the public. It may also help the city be more responsive to complaints.
The revised ordinance still defines nuisances as weeds, inoperable vehicles, trash, objects and structures that present a fire hazard, or threaten human health and safety from polluted water, air or property, or from pests and vermin. It also requires that citizens who violate those standards must promptly clean up the problem or face consequences.
It is those consequences where the city has made the biggest revision. Until last week, violators were typically issued fines for failing to comply with an enforcement order. For citizens who did not comply, and did not or could not pay the fines, the matter landed in court. According to Mayor Dunlavy, such legal efforts were unproductive.
But the revised ordinance now apparently gives the city more options to create a workable solution. Those options include using a hearing officer, instead of a courtroom, to resolve disputes; making it harder for citizens with outstanding nuisance violations to get city permits; and in extreme cases, sending city workers to clean up a nuisance if a resident can’t or won’t do it on their own.
Such a service will be paid for by a revolving fund that is restored from nuisance abatement-related fees — and something more. If the city goes in on a property to resolve a persistent nuisance problem, it will send a bill to the property owner for doing the work. However, city officials consider that only as a last resort. The effort will focus on getting citizens to clean up their own property — as it should be.
Another option the revised ordinance offers is fine-forgiveness for first-time offenders. If a citizen is cited, they may ask the city to waive the fee, but in its place, they must commit to clean up the problem and be issued no new nuisance violations for a year.
If the citizen breaks the commitment, they will have to pay both the new fee and the initial fee. Mayor Dunlavy said he believes the revised ordinance will make the nuisance abatement process more workable for residents, and the city more effective in enforcement.
Such is hoped will hold true. Nuisance abatement initiatives mean so much more than safeguarding human health and safety. A clean and neat Tooele City makes it known that its citizens and officials are proud of, and care for, the community in which they live.