Ukiah PD seeks new tool for nuisance properties

The Ukiah City Council is scheduled tonight to again consider empowering its Community Services officers and other employees to give citations when certain city codes are violated.

“This will not empower our CSOs to stop vehicles and hand out tickets,” Capt. Trent Taylor of the Ukiah Police Department told the council at the Aug. 19 meeting, adding that the change he is recommending is intended to give CSOs “the authority to issue citations when violation of property maintenance ordinances is an infraction or misdemeanor.”

Taylor said the UPD investigates properties that have become a nuisance, often because of an accumulation of trash and other items, as the city’s Planning and Building Department does not have enough staff to investigate all of the cases.

“We probably have about 12 that are real sticklers,” Taylor told the Ukiah City Council last week, explaining that he could train the city’s five Community Services officers, or CSOs, to “initiate and carry out enforcement” of the city’s ordinances that prohibit conditions on private property that create “unsafe or unhealthy conditions,” such as large piles of trash or dwellings that are falling apart.

According to the staff report prepared for tonight’s meeting, the city will also “need to retain a hearing officer to hear appeals,” and to set up “a fund to pay for clean-ups authorized through the administrative process. As these expenses are collected from the properties which have been cleaned up, the account to pay for these costs will be reimbursed by the property owner through direct billing or lien.

“As such,” the report concludes, “a budget amendment in the amount of $30,000 for expenses and $30,000 in offsetting revenue is requested.”

Taylor told the council that when the city cleaned up a property on North Bush Street a few years ago, it spent a few thousand dollars that the property owner paid back after being put on a payment plan.

At the meeting, audience member Tom Fletcher suggested to the council that the power to issue citations be extended to the fire marshal, as he said there are many properties in the city with weeds that aren’t mowed and sometimes the fire marshal will talk to the owners “five or six times” with little success in getting the vegetation cut down.

City Attorney David Rapport told the council that “the penal code already gives the fire marshal the authority to write citations,” and later advised that since a copy of the ordinance had not in fact been provided to the council to read prior to the meeting, the board should continue the item to its next meeting.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight in the council’s chambers at 300 Seminary Ave.

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