October 29, 2009 - The City of Knoxville’s Neighborhood Codes Enforcement division will send all its field inspectors on foot through a single neighborhood on November 4, as part of a pilot program aimed at proactively addressing blight and neglected properties.
Codes Enforcement is part of the city’s Public Service Department.
The Neighborhood Sweep Program, an intensive single day problem-solving effort, aimed at identifying code violations and assisting owners or tenants with solving the issue in question. The first sweep will be launched in the Parkridge neighborhood in partnership with the Parkridge Community Organization.
Public Service Director David Brace said the Neighborhood Codes office will conduct the one-day sweeps in different neighborhoods across the city starting with Knoxville’s older and historic communities. Exact schedules are still being developed and will be based partly on feedback from the Parkridge Community Organization and the city’s experiences during the first sweeps. The goal of the sweeps is to make residents and owners aware of code violations and what needs to be done to remedy them. Developing a stronger and more visible presence in problem areas is also an important goal.
“The concept is that we’ll do this on a regular basis and try to identify and resolve enforcement concerns,” Brace said, “particularly in the core neighborhoods of the city where blight and disinvestment are more prevalent. Enforcement is just one tool we can use to help motivate and educate customers on what really are just ways to be a good neighbor.”
Codes complaints and issues - ranging from litter to overgrown yards and abandoned vehicles - constitute the largest non-emergency, category of calls the City of Knoxville receives from residents. The city’s 311 Call Center answers between 12,000 and 13,000 calls related to codes enforcement annually. The
Neighborhood Codes Enforcement Division is managed by Robert Moyers who also serves as a liaison with the City’s Community Development Department, the Knoxville Police Department and Zoning Enforcement when dealing with neighborhood problems.
The neighborhood visits are part of an effort to change the way codes enforcement has been conducting its mission.
“I want us to transition from doing reactive enforcement to being more proactive,” Brace said. “Before people call about a problem I want it to be in the system. What we’d really like to do is address problems before citizens call them in.”
Moyers indicated that the Neighborhood Cleanup visits aren’t designed to be punitive expeditions with inspectors trying to write up as many violations as possible. Instead he said the aim is to make people aware of violations and help them resolve them. In some cases there are resources available through the city or other agencies that can help homeowners fix up their properties.
“So it’s problem solving rather than just coming in with a citation book and writing up violations” Moyers said. “We’re trying to open doors to solutions. However if enforcement is necessary, then we’ll do enforcement, as we always have in the past.”
In addition to the Neighborhood Sweep Program, inspectors have also been asked to follow the same two-week routing schedules used by the Public Service Department brush/leaf collection crews. Following those routes will put an inspector on nearly each street in the city twice each month.”
“I want us to be visible and I want people to know that we’re there and we care,” Brace said. “Our nine field inspectors and office staff are excellent and deal routinely with very challenging customers and situations – it’s not an easy job.”
The Parkridge visit will take place from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and inspectors will try to cover as much of the large neighborhood as possible. While the program will be conducted at locations all over the city it will initially focus on the center city neighborhoods.
More information about the city’s Neighborhood Codes Enforcement Division or what constitutes things like overgrown lots is available at www.cityofknoxville.org/services/codes.