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Andalusia council considers changes for litter, junk abatements

The City of Andalusia is eyeing changes to improve the process of handling abatements of litter and junk on personal property.

The changes include an amendment to the city’s current abatement ordinance dealing specifically with litter and junk, which would include inoperable vehicles. The amendment will allow the city to react more quickly to the problem, according to Mayor Earl Johnson.

“This is long overdue. We’ve been working for so many years in an effort to keep our city clean and deal with homes and yards that people do not maintain. Seems like we are falling behind instead of getting ahead,” Johnson said.

The proposed changes will allow for the city to handle litter much like it does weed and structure abatements with notices sent to property owners. If property owners do not resolve the issue on their own, the city will have the authority to do the work and add the expense to the owner’s property tax.

To help in identifying and enforcing the ordinance, the city will be adding a codes compliance officer charged specifically with enforcing abatements. The position will be filled by a certified police officer with arrest authority. The codes compliance officer will be a fulltime position under the daily supervision of the city’s Planning and Development Department, but would be available to assist the police department when needed.

Currently, the city operates under state statute in handling litter problems on personal property, a process Johnson said slows down progress.

“A lot of this does not qualify as a structure or weed problem and the quicker process we in place for those issues. Under the state statute dealing with these situations, it can take a year and a half or more,” he said.

As an amendment to an ordinance, the issue was introduced as a first reading. A second reading and possibly a vote to approve could take place at the next council meeting.

Director of Planning and Development Andy Wiggins said along with the new Codes Compliance Officer, his department will be adding an additional building inspector to help handle a growing workload. The new employee will come through restructuring and in filling a position left vacant through retirement.

“There’s a lot of additional construction happening across the city, which is a good thing. We anticipate that growth to continue. It is time to hire an additional inspector to help us with the day-to-day operations that come with that,” Wiggins said.

The only other matter considered by the council was the purchase of a 2021 John Deere excavator for the Public Works Department. The mayor said the city’s current excavator has been in service for 23 years and has 6,000 hours of service.

“It is worn out. The hydraulics have already been replaced several times. It is used by multiple city departments, but the time has come to replace it,” Johnson said.

The city approved the purchase of the excavator from the state bid list at a cost of $199,000. The purchase will come through a five-year loan with Covington Community Bank at 2.9 percent.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, 6 p.m., at city hall. A work session precedes the meeting at 5:30 p.m.