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Kingsport assembles code enforcement task force

Matthew Lane • Oct 10, 2019 at 6:45 PM

KINGSPORT — City Manager Chris McCartt has assembled a code enforcement task force to take a comprehensive look at the city’s code enforcement efforts, what’s being done well and where the opportunities are for improvement.

Additional money has recently been added to the city’s code enforcement efforts, and in the long term, McCartt said, the city plans to consider whether the city’s code enforcement office needs a permanent boost in resources and staff.

The city manager revealed this information at a recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting and expanded on the effort in an interview this week with the Times News.

HIGHLIGHTING PAST EFFORTS

Kingsport placed a greater emphasis on its code enforcement efforts about five years ago, under the previous administration of Mayor Dennis Phillips and City Manager Jeff Fleming. At that time, city officials remarked how funding for code enforcement had decreased in previous years, while the number of complaints from citizens had increased.

Code enforcement involves more city departments than you would think, from police and fire to the building department, legal and public works. Traffic and zoning codes, building codes and fire inspections, property maintenance and animal control all technically fall under code enforcement.

Historically, and like many communities across the country, Kingsport has treated code enforcement primarily in a reactive manner, with the code enforcement officer responding to citizen complaints about high grass and weeds, dilapidated houses and trash and other stuff in the yard.

Five years ago, Kingsport made a push to coordinate code enforcement efforts better through planning, shared duties and closer communication.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY

McCartt told the Times News there are three things happening in regard to code enforcement:

1) Deputy City Manager Ryan McReynolds is assembling a code enforcement task force comprised of city departments that currently deal with code enforcement. This group will have a conversation about which code enforcement efforts are being done well, which areas need improvement and what  the city can make a difference on right now.

The task force will look at what other cities do, glean information provided at conferences and look at the city’s existing ordinances.

2) Kingsport has added $80,000 toward code enforcement, money that will go toward mowing high grass and tearing down dilapidated structures where the owner is absent. In both cases, Kingsport would place a lien on the property to cover the cost of the work.

3) Asking if Kingsport has the necessary resources in code enforcement for a city its size or does the city need to make adjustments.

“That’ll be a process as the task force looks at opportunities and where we need to apply resources,” McCartt said. “It’ll be something we evaluate through the budget process (next year) or sooner depending on the results of the evaluation.”

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