Scottsboro City Mayor Jim McCamy recently had an update on the progress of the newly set up Ordinance Committee. This committee was formed after several residents from north Scottsboro attended and spoke at Council meetings, presenting photographs and testimony as to the deteriorating conditions of their neighborhood streets, yards and houses.
Councilmember Nita Tolliver also presented photographs she had taken, and she also spoke on behalf of the residents and the neighborhood where she currently resides.
At first, the committee requested three weeks to come up with a plan, later requesting more time before they presented the new plan to residents, a postponement that met with frustration from local residents who want their neighborhood cleaned up. Understandably. As the conditions have grown to a point where their property values are affected, and longtime residents are weighing whether or not to stay where they are or take a loss on the property they have lovingly tended for decades. Most of the residents are retired, and moving from their current homes was not in the plan, as they had moved in years ago hoping to live out the rest of their lives in those homes. Throughout the years, they have watched helplessly as their neighborhoods deteriorated around them.
However, Mayor McCamy stated the postponement was necessary, as there are many facets to this kind of enforcement. For example, the Mayor stated as an example, the event when they receive a complaint about a yard that is overgrown. Lieutenant Steve Davis, head of Ordinance Enforcement, shows up and finds a lone woman in her 80s who is not able to mow her grass unless someone does it for her. In that instance, committee members have to come up with enforcing the ordinance in a way that will not penalize the resident.
Or another example, when they haul junk cars away, where are they supposed to take them? Currently, the city has nowhere to put these cars that are in violation of ordinances. Enforcing the ordinance means the city now has to come up with a place to put them.
Ironing out the logistics of the ordinance enforcement has been tricky for the committee as it will not only involve just one neighborhood, but the entirety of Scottsboro.
The Mayor stated, “The committee has met several times, and this is not a one-neighborhood problem; this is a citywide problem, so we’re trying to make sure we do it at the level it needs to be so that it addresses all of Scottsboro and not just one neighborhood. While it has taken us some time, we have continued to work on it to make sure we get it right. We’re looking at a process to address junk cars, junk yards, overgrown houses and collapsing/dilapidated houses.”
The process, outlined by the Mayor, would consist of receiving a complaint or proactively identifying a place, and a note is made. A letter will then be sent, informing the resident of what they are in violation of. The City will then follow up on the letter, and if no action is taken, it will then be turned over to Lt. Davis who will then make contact with the resident. If nothing is corrected as it has been ordered, Lt. Davis will follow up in person, and based on his investigation, the next proper action will be taken – which could be a citation or a court date.
“We have already spoken with Municipal Judge Deborah Dunsmore,” the mayor stated, “and she is aware of our problems, the problem we have with this, and she is fully supportive of what we’re trying to do.”
As for which area to focus on first, the Mayor stated the area off of Tupelo Pike will be focused on first as this is the neighborhood where the complaints have originated from. The mayor also stated there has been improvement there already, but that area would be the initial focus, and then the committee and city will follow up on addressing other areas of town.
To the citizens and residents who came to the Council meetings, the Mayor stated, “I know we’ve had a number of residents who have come to the City Council in the past. That area should’ve never been allowed to get to the point that it has gotten to, and we’re going to do everything we can to correct it, but this is not something we can pull the trigger on and make happen. It’s going to have to be a process so we can make sure we do everything correctly. There are going to be exceptions that will have to be addressed, and we’re going to have to address them properly. I’m happy to talk to any of them who want to call, and I will explain exactly where we are. We’re not going to put this off until these residents go away because that is absolutely not the intent. We’ve taken our time to make sure we get it right. Everybody, the whole community was in agreement. We sat down with the committee, we sat down with the police department, we sat down with everybody involved, and everyone was in agreement; we need to do this right.”
As for the dilapidated/abandoned/crumbling structures, the city just received a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through ADECA to address just this problem.
“We will be, in the next few weeks, down to look at the list that we have already established,” the Mayor stated, “and prioritize those structures and start the contact with property owners, the process to get them removed. These are not just residential properties; there are also some old commercial properties.”
As for the future, the Mayor, City, Council and Committee are hoping this will remind residents that everyone has a responsibility to keep Scottsboro clean. That it reflects on all of us.
“As we try to improve and try to grow and get different businesses and opportunities in here that people continuously say they want,” the Mayor stated, “when someone comes in, and they see some of the issues we’ve got, they’re not going to be real receptive to coming here, and it’s understandable. This is the fastest way we, the committee, felt we could address the issues we have right now and be effective. We need to do it, and we need to do it right.”