03/11/05 — City Council aims to hit violators in the pocketbook

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City Council aims to hit violators in the pocketbook

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 11, 2005 1:55 PM

PINE KNOLL SHORES -- Goldsboro City Council members were shocked Thursday to find out that people who violate city ordinances have not been fined in nearly a year.

Fines are likely to resume in April and at higher levels -- up to $250 per day for repeat offenders -- say city officials.

During the second day of their annual retreat, council members learned that the city stopped issuing citations in May 2004 to people who repeatedly refuse to comply with rules and regulations.

Former city manager Richard Slozak halted the practice for several reasons, said Tasha Logan, the assistant to the city manager.

Many people simply ignored the tickets, which carried fees as low as $25 and generated too much paperwork, she said.

City employees were inconsistent when they would give citations. Some people who were ticketed claimed to be victims of discrimination, she said.

Council members were quick to connect Slozak's decision to the inaction of people with messy properties, junked vehicles and other violations.

"No wonder they don't pay attention to us," Mayor Al King said. "If you don't hit them in the pocket, they don't care."

Some violations are possibly hazardous, said Ed Cianfarra, the city's chief inspector.

One Goldsboro merchant typically locks a fire-escape door to keep customers or employees from stealing merchandise, he said. An inspector stops by every day and orders the store to unlock it.

Allowing the city to resume fines "could stop a potential Hamlet," Cianfarra said, referring to the deadly fire in a chicken-processing plant in which employees suffocated just inside an exit that was illegally closed.

Other violations are merely annoying. The city has picked up 112 signs that a Goldsboro business erected in road right-of-ways.

Planning Director Randy Guthrie asked the council to add "fangs" to the city codes by increasing the fines.

The city's maximum fine is $50 per day per violation; Guthrie proposed that the fine be increased to $100 per day for second offenders and $250 per day for subsequent violations.

The council may take other steps to improve enforcement. Suggestions included improved, standardized training for all employees who can write citations; the possible hiring of a minimum housing inspector or other staff; and a public education campaign.

Council members urged the staff to move quickly.

"It's been such a huge frustration," Chuck Allen said. "Clean is clean, not clean is not clean ... but it has felt like we were the only ones who saw this stuff."

"We should have done this last week, last month, last year," Kings said.

"The time is now," Jimmy Bryan added.

The retreat was scheduled to end at noon today.