York City officials are considering a new enforcement strategy that could significantly streamline the city's ability to resolve its "trash and debris problem," as one official put it.
They're calling it the Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance.
If the proposal passes, the city's property-maintenance inspectors would have the ability to immediately issue a $25 ticket for certain violations — throwing a candy wrapper in a storm sewer or failing to clear animal waste from a backyard, for example.
"With the current system, there's really no resolution," said Steve Buffington, the city's building-code official.
That enforcement system can be cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring multiple notices and often resulting in an appeal to a district judge. Minimum fines for these types of violations are usually about $100, Buffington said.
Sometimes, by the time a person receives a violation notice, he or she has already corrected the problem, Buffington said.
The tickets: Under the proposal, Buffington said, "You could issue them a $25 ticket for littering on the spot."
"It's enough, we believe, to get their attention without putting an undue burden on them," he said.
Appeals would also be handled in a different way.
The proposal gives the mayor the ability to designate a "hearing officer," who would have the authority to deny, uphold or modify the violation ticket.
People who get a ticket would have 10 days to pay the fine or request a hearing. Failing to pay or request a hearing within 10 days could result in a higher fine.
After 20 days, the ticket would become a citation, and the case would be forwarded to the court system.
According to the proposal, the ordinance could be enforced by "any police officer, authorized inspector, or public official designated by the mayor."
Already illegal: All of the violations subject to the proposed enforcement system are already illegal, said Jason Sabol, city solicitor.
For example, the new system would apply to littering, overgrown grass, animal waste, illegal dumping, and abandoned vehicles.
Buffington said the new system could generate more revenue for the city because the money collected through tickets would stay with the city — rather than being collected by the court system.
That revenue could be used to support property-maintenance enforcement with new technology and additional inspectors, he said.
According to the proposal, first and second offenses — "or a continuous offense which has not been remedied" — within a 12-month period could result in fines of $25 or $100. Third offenses within the same time period could result in fines of $150 or $250. Fourth and subsequent offenses could result in fines of $300 or $500.
"If you're a repeat offender, it escalates and it escalates quickly," Sabol said.
City solicitors and property-maintenance inspectors would also spend less time in court, Sabol said.
The models: The Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance is modeled on enforcement procedures successfully implemented in cities like Allentown and Lancaster, he said.
To implement the system in York, the city might need to equip its inspectors with some new tools, Buffington said.
For example, inspectors need to be able to electronically write tickets, snap a photo of the violation and then print that ticket with the photo to serve immediately.
Inspectors already have iPads, but new software would be needed, Buffington said.
The York City Council will introduce the proposal at its Tuesday meeting. The council could vote on the ordinance as soon as July 15.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.