York City inspectors bringing new gadgets to blight fight

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

After announcing plans earlier this month to crack down on neglected properties, York City officials took time Thursday to show off the new devices they hope will help clean up the city.

The city’s five property maintenance inspectors will be equipped with handheld devices that can take photographs to instantly document violations and print citations, thanks to a partnership with Qdot Engineering, said Steven Buffington, deputy director of the city’s permits, planning and zoning bureau.

The new devices will allow inspectors to complete inspections and issue citations in just five minutes, Buffington said at a news conference at City Hall on Thursday.

Steven Buffington, right, deputy director of York City's permits, planning and zoning bureau, and a city property maintenance inspector show off one of the new devices the inspectors will be using to crack down on trash and blight in the city. Thursday, July 13, 2017. Jason Addy photo.

Fines: As part of the new enforcement effort, the permits, planning and zoning bureau is dropping the minimum fine for property violations from $100 to $25 to encourage cooperation from residents, Buffington said.

More:York City to crack down on neglected properties

First-time offenses will prompt a warning or $25 fine, but Buffington warned the fines will double, up to $300, with each further violation.

Those who are found to be illegally dumping waste inside the city will be fined $1,000, while dumping hazardous materials will come with a $5,000 fine, under the ordinance.

More:Mauck warns West York residents over property codes

Violations of the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance — which regulates litter, trash, abandoned and junked vehicles, hazardous waste and illegal dumping — bring down residents’ quality of life and make York City less attractive to potential new residents and businesses, Buffington said.

Though he wished he could call the devices the “cure-all, end-all” for York City’s property-maintenance problems, Buffington said the devices will be just another tool in the toolbox for trying to bring property owners into compliance.

Shrewd solution: York City Councilman Henry Nixon said the new technology helps to address a number of issues with property maintenance enforcement. 

The devices cut through the bureaucracy of mailing out letters and waiting weeks for responses, while helping to “achieve a greater compliance” under the ordinance, Nixon said.

More:Mauck warns West York residents over property codes

York City’s curb appeal will get a boost by reducing the level of urban blight through blanket enforcement of the ordinance — made possible by the new devices.

Nixon has been instrumental in the city’s attempts to tackle neglected properties, voting in favor of the Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance in 2014 and working with Buffington in recent months to “add real teeth” to the ordinance through upgraded enforcement.

At the news conference, Nixon was proud that the York City Council and Mayor Kim Bracey’s administration worked together to try to solve one of the city’s top problems.

“This is government at its very best. This is how it ought to be,” Nixon said.

With her final remarks, Bracey warned city residents the violation crackdown starts Saturday.

“Get there before we do.”