Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Florence considers code enforcement board

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        FLORENCE — City leaders want to keep Boone District Court dockets free of logjams of minor civil cases.

        To do that, City Council is considering a kind of legislative drain cleaner — creation of a code enforcement board to hear appeals of citations for various minor offenses that now go directly to District Court in Burlington.

        “We're in the process of determining whether we want one,” Public Services Director Bob Townsend said Tuesday. “We're looking at it to expedite the resolution of some of the citations. (Circuit judges) don't consider (these citations) a high priority on their docket.”

        Now, the city cites someone, gives him five to 30 days to correct a problem, reinspects and then sends the matter to court.

        Mr. Townsend said the city issues about 1,000 citations a year for a variety of offenses — parking tickets, tall grass, disabled vehicles in driveways, health code violations. He said judges rule on an average of only 15 cases a year, but all the citations call for court appearances.

        Police Chief Tom Kathman and Mr. Townsend have been thinking about a code enforcement board for months because it was getting harder to enforce housing and health regulations in apartments — which Chief Kathman said 48 percent of Florence's 23,500 residents call home.

        But putting together a three-member panel will take more than finding the residents to serve.

        Code enforcement boards can hear only civil cases, and Mr. Townsend said most of Florence's applicable ordinances would have to be revised because they call for criminal penalties.

        Four other Northern Kentucky cities - Covington, Edgewood, Bellevue and Fort Mitchell - have created code enforcement boards within the last two years. Fort Mitchell City Clerk Linda Coburn said her city's board has acted as a deterrent since it was formed in December 1999.

        “We've only heard two cases in all that time,” Ms. Coburn said. “Most of the people who know the alternatives alleviate the problem and pay the fine.”

        Chief Kathman said it could take until next spring to put Florence's board in place.


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