Delgado: Stricter code enforcement needed

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Hattiesburg Environmental Court, which assists Code Enforcement, Animal Control and Fire Department in clearing up any documented violations, should be discontinued, one City Councilwoman told officials during a work session Monday afternoon.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, who has worked in the city’s Code Enforcement Department, said not correcting her complaints of many years ago was “not acceptable,” the Environmental Court has not had its desired results in cleaning up the city and the small number of unsafe properties brought before the City Council is “almost laughable.”

Delgado said she had become concerned about the city’s appearance and how it would look to people who veered off the beaten path.

“My concern about code enforcement was renewed in a huge way because there were conditions that I had complained of many years ago, especially in areas that I don’t go down all the time,” she said. “It’s not acceptable.”

Delgado said she also encountered problems when she tried to entice businesspeople to invest in the city.

“I was really heartbroken to have developers that I am taking through parts of Hattiesburg, particularly those who don’t have a problem investing in floodplains, to ask me time after time, ‘Where is code enforcement? What are they doing?’” she said.

Delgado has not seen a significant difference since the establishment of the city’s Environmental Court, she said.

“I take these fresh views and I check into the status of properties that have been on our list of problem properties for many years,” she said. “Certainly, any institution is going to have a few challenges, but in terms of the Environmental Court having the impact that we hoped it would have, it has not.”

Ward 2 has greater challenges than others because of properties located in floodplains, Delgado said.

“Looking at these problems fresh and I see that we still have cars that trees are growing up through, that we still have neighborhoods with couches and refrigerators on the front porches that the citizen has to take responsibility for,” she said. “But, if we have a system and a department in place that is supposed to do that for us. I am not making these comments without personal knowledge of code enforcement and how it operates and what good code enforcement means to a community.”

Delgado said the number of unsafe properties that is presented every month to the City Council does not represent the scope of the problem.

“When I sit here and see that we bring 10 or 15 or 20 properties, sometimes as many as 30, I don’t say anything,” she said. “But it’s almost laughable to me because my responsibility and my mandate was to bring 50-100, and we did that.”

Delgado proposed that the Environmental Court be discontinued and those resources put into the council’s resolution process. More code enforcement officers could be hired to have someone to make sure that it operates correctly and they would follow through to the end.

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