A proposal to repeal a McComb ordinance on property upkeep is on hold while officials assess the effect repeal would have.
Selectman Ronnie Brock raised the possibility of repealing an ordinance adopted in the last term of office requiring property owners or occupants to keep sidewalks and gutters in front of their properties clean.
The change would “free Public Works to do the things they need to do,” Brock claimed at Tuesday’s board meeting.
He clarified Wednesday that he believes the ordinance keeps city workers from mowing or otherwise cleaning on sites that may be vacant and not maintained by absentee owners, which could cause a hazard. He gave as an example an intersection on Wall Street where tall vegetative growth he estimated at 5 feet on an unkempt property obscured a stop sign.
The ordinance “keeps us from doing what we can improve these properties,” Brock said. “We can’t clean all the property, but this ordinance has not had the impact we wanted. If you drive around the city, you don’t see a lot of improvement.”
He said the property he mentioned, which he also asked Public Works Director Alice Barnes about Tuesday, was mowed Wednesday morning.
“That was done by the city,” he said. “That could have been done weeks ago.”
Brock also said he believes the ordinance might cause liability issues for the city, because the city is requiring owners or residents to take care of city property.
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said Tuesday there is some question about the ownership of sidewalks because property owners were assessed taxes to fund the construction.
Selectman Michael Cameron pointed out the ordinance was adopted “for aesthetics, not repairs,” and that the city could not clean the front of every property in town if owners or residents stop cleaning thir sidewalks and gutters.
“We don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough money, we don’t have enough people,” Cameron said.
Public Works Director Alice Barnes said she could provide a list of places where public works mows and cleans on street frontage.
She asked for time to talk with Brock and others, go over the list of properties and see how the city can best proceed.
Brock said Wednesday that, rather than repealing the ordinance, the board might consider tweaking the language included.
The board also took another swing at ditches in the discussion, with Brock asking Barnes whether the city could mow and clean out the street side of some ditches, and Selectman Devante Johnson saying he had been “bombarded” with calls and pictures with some ditches apparently cleaned by city workers while others were not.
“I couldn’t justify to people why,” Johnson said.
As with the property fronting streets in town, “there are so many ditches, we can’t maintain them all,” Cameron said. He also noted that the ordinance does not address ditches and perhaps should not be included in the discussion.
Lockley said the city can go into at least some of the ditches in the city and clear out obstructions like trees, but have to have the property owner’s permission to do so first.
“Ditches belong to the property owners,” he said.
He also said that tall grass is not an obstruction — “If water is flowing, grass lays down,” he said — and that changes to laws now restrict activities by the city that were once permissible.
He pointed again to staffing in public works, as well, noting that there are now four employees where there used to be 13.
“If all those employees are cleaning sidewalks, they’re not filling potholes,” Lockley said.
“We can’t just keep saying we don’t have enough workers. We need to do something,” Selectman Shawn Williams said. “I’m not pointing fingers. I’m just looking for solutions.”