Representatives with the Keep Tift Beautiful Board, as well as Omega Chief Eric Windmoller and two city employees, met with Tift County Code Enforcement Deputy Director Russell Gay Tuesday morning at Omega City Hall to discuss the rules and regulations of property owners keeping up with their properties and several other issues concerning keeping Omega a beautiful town.
Shirley Marchant and Rubye Meders, who both serve on the Keep Tift Beautiful Board; Windmoller; Yolanda Baker, who has been Omega’s city clerk for 36 years; and Steve Whittington, who has been the public works director for the city of Omega for 28 years, gained some feedback from Gay on how Tift County Code Enforcement operates.
In response to condemning a house, Gay explained, “There are a lot of hoops that you have to jump through to get a house torn down.”
He added that owners should be held responsible for not taking care of their property. He said Code Enforcement sends so many letters and gives property owners so much time before having to go before the city Municipal Court.
“We would rather them (property owners) do it than having taxpayers or the city pay for it,” Gay stated, referring to a house being torn down. “We have to draw the line somewhere. We can’t just let it drag out for 10 years.”
However, when it comes to dilapidated houses, Gay noted that Code Enforcement has to receive a complaint before they can begin an investigation. He said they investigate every complaint, no matter how minor or major.
“We do have to operate off of a complaint,” Gay stated. “If you see something, call and let us know.”
Also, he noted that some house numbers need to be worked on so that they can be seen better.
“Police and EMS have a problem with this, especially at night. They can’t see the house numbers,” he said. “We really need some help on that.”
In another matter, Marchant addressed many people buying houses in Omega who don’t live here. Therefore, they don’t keep up with the property. She noted that in years past, houses were owned by family members who lived in Omega, but the children have left town and the parents have died.
Gay shook his head in agreement, stating, “We see that all over the city and county.”
He once again urged that people who see houses that are dilapidated or overgrown should contact Code Enforcement. He said, “We need to get a complaint to look at it.”
Marchant stated that much of what has made Omega such a beautiful town is gone due to such negligence. She said one house not appreciated affects everyone.
“Omega is an outstanding community that has five outstanding churches, an outstanding school, farmers and city employees,” she said. “It’s worth preserving.”
She noted that the sidewalks were recently redone.
When asked about how to determine who a house belongs to, Gay stated that Code Enforcement starts with the tax assessor’s office.
“It can be a very timely process, but in Georgia now, we can put it in the paper,” he noted.
He stated that people own and finance houses sometimes and that’s okay, but it falls back on the property owner.
When asked about how many houses have been torn down by the county, Gay said, “Since I’ve been here, we have taken down 30 or 40 houses in the county and the owners have done the others.”
He said the cost of taking down a house costs anywhere between $5,000 to $8,000. He noted that this is according to the size of the house and how much material can be recycled.
Gay explained that dilapidated houses breed crime. He said they’re a huge liability and property owners are held responsible. However, he stated, Code Enforcement will board up dilapidated houses and secure them until they can go the other route.
He stated, “Once a condemned sticker is put on it, anybody caught in it goes to jail, unless the owners sent someone to work on it.”
Gay said all it takes is one call to get the process going. He stated that they would gladly do everything they can.
“We have to have a complaint. It might take time but we’ll stay with it,” he said.
Gay stated that Tift County Code Enforcement received about 1,200 or 1,250 calls last year. They have “one and half” people working for the county office and the city has three or four workers.
“We stay extremely busy,” he stated. “We get more of our calls in the spring and summer. We get a lot of dumping calls in the spring.”
He noted that a current hot topic is signs being put out due to the election coming up.
Also, Marchant addressed the problem of locals burning fire pits in their yards. Windmoller stated that if anything gets out of hand, they contact Tift County Forestry. Gay recommended that the city adopt a “no burn” ordinance. He advised them to speak to Fire Chief Mike Coleman with the Tifton-Tift County Fire Department and Chief Ranger Al Potts with the Tift County Forestry Unit about getting an ordinance.
He noted that there’s a difference between making a fire grill compared to a fire pit, which can be worked into the ordinance to help differentiate.
Another issue discussed was the accumulation of tires at a location. Gay noted that according to the county ordinance, there can only be a certain number of tires due to their being a breeding ground for mosquitos when water accumulates in them. He stated that it’s best to let dealers keep the tires and deal with them.
Tift County Code Enforcement serves Tift County, Ty Ty and Omega.
To contact Tift County Code Enforcement, call 386-7991.