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A new committee that includes City of Minot representatives and other local agencies will be tasked with improving the process to handle nuisance complaints.
The committee will include representatives from several City of Minot departments, including planning, inspections, police, fire, and public works, as well as the First District Health Unit and the Minot Housing Authority.
“Who can do what? That’s the question we’ll ask ourselves as departments,” said Brian Billingsley, community and economic development director for the City of Minot. “Some nuisance complaints affect multiple departments, so we want to work together to determine that maybe the Fire Department is the best one to handle a specific complaint. Maybe the First District Health Unit should handle another complaint. If we come together, we can streamline that process and handle complaints in a more efficient manner.”
Billingsley said the first things the committee will discuss include mobile home parks, drug houses, run down businesses, vacant buildings, weeds, fire codes, and building codes.
“Collectively, we’ll create a top 10, if you will, of places to focus on,” he said. “The committee will focus on enhanced code enforcement and look at creating graduated fines for repeat offenders. We’ll work with the City Attorney to determine a new fee structure.”
With only one code enforcement officer on staff, Billingsley said the backlog of complaints has grown in recent years.
“Right now we are completely a complaint-driver department,” he said. “Our only enforcement officer, Margie Zietz, knows there are locations in our community that are out of compliance, but she simply doesn’t have time to just pull over and investigate. Because of the backlog of complaints that she already has, she has to wait for a complaint to come in before she can act. We want to change that.”
The Public Works Department handles the City’s grass and weed complaints, while Zietz focuses on the other complaints, including abandoned vehicles, garbage in yards, and locations where appliances, furniture, and other household items are left in yards. Zietz said the addition of a second officer would greatly enhance the ability to be more proactive.
“One person would make a big difference. We would be able to focus more on the needs of a neighborhood, and we could specialize a little more,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t even have time to think about taking someone to court because of the stack of complaints that I’m already dealing with, and that’s not a good process.”
The preliminary 2020 budget for the City of Minot includes a request for another code enforcement officer. City Council President Mark Jantzer’s delivered his budget message on Sept. 3, and the budget is scheduled to be approved at a special City Council meeting on Sept. 23.
“A second person would allow us to be more proactive. If this position is approved, then we can actually drive around and patrol the city like we should be doing, but can’t do that with just one person,” Billingsley said. “We’ll be better able to respond quickly if one of our code enforcement officers drives by a location that is clearly out of compliance. We would be able to pull over and investigate rather than waiting for someone to file a complaint.”
Billingsley said the newly formed committee will play a key role in creating a community that is better equipped to solve nuisance issues.
“Our overall goal is to find and create efficiencies in the code enforcement process. We want to work together to begin cleaning up our community’s nuisance issues,” he said.