The Blockwatch Beat
Matters of code enforcement are being discussed all over the Hilltop right now, so I went straight to the source to get the answers.
I recently met with Heather Truesdell, code enforcement supervisor for the Hilltop.
Jay McCallister: How many code enforcement officers are there for the city and Hilltop?
Heather Truesdell: We have 40 code officers for the city and eight supervisors. There are five officers for the Hilltop.
JM: Are your cases strictly complaint-based?
HT: No, absolutely not. If we go to a property and see that nearby properties have code issues we will definitely address those problems too.
JM: What are the most common complaints for warm weather months?
HT: I’d say high grass and weeds. Also, open vacant structures and inoperable motor vehicles are fairly common complaints.
JM: Unfortunately, ugly is not against code. What are the most common complaints that you cannot do anything about?
HT: The first thing that comes to mind is where high grass and weeds are less than 12 inches. Another common complaint is graffiti on occupied structures. Graffiti is only addressed in the vacant structure code.
JM: What are the first steps that are taken after a complaint?
HT: Complaints that go through the 311 call center are then sent to the appropriate area supervisor and then assigned to a code officer. Their first step is to then go out and determine if there is a violation. If there is an issue, a violation order is written. A violation can also be an emergency, such as a vacant structure with an open door or window, and emergency orders will be issued to close that up immediately.
JM: What if the offender does not comply.
HT: We issue orders for housing, zoning, and environmental health. On zoning orders they are given 20 days to comply, on housing orders they are given 30 days to comply. On environmental health, such as high grass and weeds, they are given five days to comply. Everyone has the right to appeal. However, if they don’t comply the officer will typically issue a warning letter. If the order is still ignored then there is the option to file criminal charges and take the matter to criminal court.
JM: How do you deal with absentee landlords?
HT: All landlords are typically dealt with the same way. We send violation notices by certified mail if necessary, even to landlords living out of state.
JM: How can a blockwatch help you do your job?
HT: A blockwatch can help by educating the public on what the codes are and exchanging information at your blockwatch meetings.
JM: What is the best way to contact code enforcement?
HT: Call 311 with specifics complaints. A service request for code enforcement, as well as other city services, can be made online at www.311.columbus.gov/COCOSR/