12/22/04 — Violators of junk car rules may face financial penalties

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Violators of junk car rules may face financial penalties

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on December 22, 2004 2:04 PM

The Wayne County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to toughen the junk-car ordinance with civil and criminal penalties.

As of Jan. 1, the county will be able to issue citations to people who refuse to comply.

The fines will start at $100 a day for first-time offenders and escalate to $300 a day for repeat offenders.

The commissioners also agreed to make violations a criminal matter, meaning some people could end up in court.

Another change is the county will only allow people to have one covered, unlicensed vehicle. Currently, people can cover any number of vehicles.

County officials said they needed the changes to force some property owners to comply, but some citizens said the county was going too far.

"Instead of using a bigger and bigger stick, maybe the county could use a carrot," said J.E. Bass of LaGrange.

Salvage companies typically do not want these older decrepit vehicles, because it's not economical to strip them and recycle the metal, he said. It's at best break-even.

That would force many people with limited income to have to pay towing companies to take away their vehicles, he said. "What's a person to do?"

Tom Drew of Goldsboro argued that many of the so-called junkers are attractive to their owners.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," he said. "To cover it up might be like putting a bag over a pretty girl."

But Capt. Joe Allen of the Sheriff's Office, who enforces the ordinance, said the changes are needed.

Allen typically deals with people who have five to 10 unlicensed vehicles on their property and has seen as many as 44, he said. "If someone buys 44 car covers, that looks bad."

Sheriff Carey Winders added that his office does not have the manpower to clean up the county. "It needs to be the responsibility of citizens to take care of their own messes," he said.

Passed in July 2002, the ordinance only applies to areas outside cities and towns. It empowers the Sheriff's Office to remove:

*"Abandoned vehicles," defined as those left in "no parking" zones, on public property for longer than seven days, or left on someone else's private property without their consent.

*"Junked vehicles," which are unlicensed motor vehicles that are partially dismantled or wrecked, that don't run or that are more than five years old and worth less than $100.

*"Nuisance vehicles," which pose a health or safety threat by serving as a breeding ground for mosquitoes or other pests; having places, like trunks, that could entrap a child; or leaking gasoline or other chemicals.

The Sheriff's Office is authorized to target vehicles that can only be seen from public streets or rights of way. Property owners can avoid complaints by erecting fences to block views of the vehicles or putting them inside garages or structures.