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Council voting on code enforcement

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 10:12 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The city of Huntington will give residents an opportunity to clean up their yards before it starts cracking down on code enforcement.

Administration and Finance Director Brandi Jacobs-Jones says the city will place trash bins in city neighborhoods for two weeks at a time beginning in early April. The schedule for the free cleanup program is still a work in progress, she said.

The trash bins will give residents a grace period to get rid of junk and debris from their property before the city starts issuing citations, Jacobs-Jones said.

City Council is set to vote on an ordinance Monday, March 25, which would prohibit residents from storing certain items on their porches or front yards. The items include upholstered furniture, mattresses and any other products not intended for outdoor use. The ordinance also prohibits building materials being stored outdoors unless they are for a permitted project on the property. Penalties include fines of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail or both.

The ordinance is just one part of Williams' multi-pronged approach to improving the quality of life in Huntington by ramping up code enforcement. The council also will vote on a resolution Monday that authorizes Williams to apply for a federal Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $28,000 to hire a compliance officer. The position is proposed to fall under the Police Department, not the Division of Inspections and Compliance.

"Compliance is important for ensuring a safe city, and it's very apparent that it has to be done at a higher level," Capt. Hank Dial said Thursday, explaining why the Police Department is getting into the compliance business. "The traditional methods of policing will only take us so far."

Williams also has indicated that he will seek the ability to issue on-the-spot citations through the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, Williams said. Property owners now have a 10-day warning period to clean up their messes before they receive a citation. Charleston was granted the authority to issue on-the-spot citations as part of its home rule plan and it has worked well, Williams said.

In other business Monday, the council will vote on a resolution authorizing Finance Director Deron Runyon to enter into a promissory note for the city's workers' compensation letter of credit.

Huntington is self-insured and uses York Insurance Services as a third-party administrator. To remain self-insured, the West Virginia Insurance Commission requires the city to maintain a letter of credit, a surety bond or government bonds in an amount equal to the projected future costs of its workers' comp claims.

The amount is formulated by the third-party administrator and the Insurance Commission and is updated annually. The reserve guarantees that the city will be able to pay workers' comp claims even if its general fund runs into trouble.

Huntington now is required to maintain a reserve of almost $5.4 million, but it falls more than $1 million short of that mark. The resolution authorizes a promissory note with First Sentry Bank for $1,050,092.

Also up for a vote Monday is an ordinance that rezones property at 19 7th Avenue West from R-4 Residence to C-1 Neighborhood Commercial. The petitioner, Kroger Ltd. Partnership, wants to build a fueling station in the parking lot of its grocery store.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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