GLASGOW – Poor property maintenance, traffic concerns, park improvements, sidewalk requests, and the possibility of hiring a consultant to determine the best course for the Glasgow Electric Plant Board were the primary topics of discussion during the second in a series of “town hall” meetings.
Mayor Harold Armstrong is having the meetings to hear from people in particular parts of town, with the idea being that different areas have different issues, or at least different spots where those issues occur.
Approximately 30 people, including about half the city council members, were in attendance – about five times as many as for the first one. This one was to focus on residents living in the southeastern segment – east of the U.S. 31-E Bypass and south of Main Street.
The topic that seemed to be of most interest Monday and was sprinkled throughout the meeting was property maintenance, which came with several questions about code enforcement measures. Johnny Dilley brought up that a couple of properties near Elsie Street had gotten run down, and Kasey Lee and her mother, Connie Hart, respectively, discussed an abandoned home along Lenna Drive that's been vacant from about a decade since the person who had lived there died and another property with two large camper/trailers, about seven vehicles, a pontoon boat, fishing boat, jet skis parked there. She said they do have a fenced in back yard but there's nothing back there “but a dog that barks 24 hours a day.” On the latter issue, Armstrong suggested checking subdivision restrictions that may address how many vehicles can be parked there.
Abby Medford didn't mention a specific street or property of interest, but she said she had filed an open records request to see whether the same landlords' names tended to make repetitive appearances and learned that there was no centralized information system or database, so it was a matter of looking through physical file after file after file. She even offered to help the city set up that database.
Joe Downing asked about rental properties where the landlord is not taking care of them, and Armstrong said that often, the tenants are the ones who complain.
The mayor said the previous code enforcement officer, Larry Baldock, has retired, and the new person is Sheryl Peña, and she has been working hard to catch up a backlog of cases that weren't processed all the way through the legal process.
Medford asked for more information on the processes available to enforce the the city's property maintenance code, which Armstrong described partially, saying it starts with a visual inspection, issuing verbal warning if the owner is there on site but sometimes, like with abandoned properties, doing some digging to find the owner, then a letter is sent and then a second, each giving the person a certain amount of time to take care of the problems. And that part alone takes 60 to 120 days.
The mayor said if the city has been out money to maintain a property, like mowing it, and seeks compensation for that, it can get a lien against the property.
He called upon local attorney Cheryl Berry Ambach, who serves as master commissioner, and happened to be at the meeting as well, to explain what has to happen before the property can be sold away from the owner. Ambach said that before the property can be sold, someone has to foreclose on the tax liens to enforce and collect those, and then anyone with a financial interest in the property should, theoretically, be included in that lawsuit.
“We're not talking about something that's going to happen very quickly, because people to be notified all over creation, so you're looking at an extended period of time,” she said. “Best case would be three months, but realistically it's more like six months to a year.”
Once a judgment is issued in the case, 30 days later, it gets referred to the master commissioner's office, and it's sold “at the courthouse door,” but that's not really where it takes place, she said.
Armstrong said there's a case pending now that's been lingering more than six years that started with mowing and eventually escalated to where the house was demolished at the city's expense after it became clearly unsafe.
“Sometimes, to do the right thing and do it legal …, it may take forever,” the mayor said.
Leigh Lessenberry said the discussion there highlighted a decreasing lack of pride some residents seem to have in their community and neighborhoods that used to be pretty nice have become degraded.
He said he thought that meetings like these and the strategic planning sessions that took place last week that give a voice to all individuals could help with making a difference.
Donna Dotson wanted to know the status on whether a consultant was going to be hired to look into the best options for the Glasgow EPB, as it considers whether to sign a new 20-year-termination-notice contract with its wholesale electricity provider and regulator, the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The mayor said they would be able to provide a neutral opinion on the contract and some of the EPB's other decisions about rate structure. If it turns out what the EPB wants to do is correct, it would take some of the heat off them, but if not, they would need to go in another direction. He said EPB board chairman Tag Taylor had told him they were in the process of getting one.
Taylor, who wasn't present at the meeting, told the Glasgow Daily Times afterward that he was checking into a couple of possible consultants.
The meeting for Quadrant 3 is scheduled for Nov. 4, and Quadrant 4's first meeting is set for Dec. 2, both at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at Glasgow City Hall.
Editorial note: This report has been changed from its original version to correct the location of the properties about which Johnny Dilley expressed concern.