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Tallulah working to clean up for contest

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TALLULAH, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Energized by efforts for Tallulah to win the top spot in the 2014 Cleanest City competition with municipalities in the same population category, Mayor Eddie Beckwith, Jr. has unveiled a new plan that focuses on greater enforcement of the city's property maintenance codes.

Three new "Enforcement Scoreboard" signs have been installed at key locations in Tallulah to show the cumulative totals of citations issued for violations of the city's various property maintenance codes.

Ordinances pertaining to junk cars, tall grass, noxious growth, litter, trash, and building maintenance violations are particularly targeted for stronger enforcement accountability, according to Mayor Beckwith.

"We have ordinances on the books that govern these issues, and stipulate the penalties for violations," said Beckwith. "These ordinances do more than just to help the appearance of our city. They also address such vital areas as public safety, fire prevention, health hazards, insurance rates, and property values."

"A properly maintained home positioned next to as slum dwelling does not increase the value of the slum dwelling. Instead, the slum dwelling reduces the value of the properly maintained home. That's what these property codes are all about and must be enforced," said Beckwith.

Violations of these ordinances are supposed to be ticketed by the Tallulah Police Department which, by city charter, must enforce all of the city's ordinances. The city's code enforcement officer is responsible for the enforcement of the city's building codes. But a quick and informal study of the records of the police department and the city court docket reveal

no citations have been made by the police department perhaps in all of 2013.

Property code violations are supposed to be handled in the same manner as traffic violations. A ticket is issued for speeding, failure to obey a stop sign, or failure to have proof of insurance or a valid safety inspection sticker. The violator has the option of paying the fine or going to city court on a designated date to adjudicate the violation. But there are no records of such property code citations by the police department, nor reflected on the city court docket. Nor do the records show any fines being collected for such violations.

On the other hand, the city's code enforcement officer, Stan Livingston, sends out about 30 such citations each month, by certified mail as stipulated by law. He even includes in most cases a color photograph showing the violation, since so many property owners are absentee landlords who haven't actually seen their property in years and have no idea what it looks like.

"There is the prospect that Tallulah failed to win first-place last year in the Cleanest City competition because the judges saw more cigarette butts on the ground here than in the city that won first-place. We cannot allow this to happen again in 2014," said Beckwith.

The property maintenance codes are published on the Tallulah website, www.Tallulah-la.gov, along with photos depicting each type of blight.

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