Mayor asks City Council to look at code enforcement
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Inundated with calls and complaints about alleged city ordinance violations, Glendive Mayor Jerry Jimison is asking city council members and other city administrators for ideas about how to enforce city ordinances.
Jimison broached the subject at Monday’s meeting of the city’s Personnel Committee, suggesting that the city find some suitable way to add ordinance enforcement duties to one of the existing city positions.
“A majority of my phone calls and complaints are, as of late, dealing with noncompliant residences as far as upkeep of their property, maintenance of their sidewalks, general livability and the appearance of the city to outsiders,” Jimison said.
The mayor suggested several different positions he thought ordinance enforcement duties could possibly be added to -- assistant public works director, firefighters, a tenth police officer the police department has been seeking, even water plant employees.
“I’m just throwing it out there,” Jimison said. “If anybody else agrees with the people who have been calling my office, maybe we should be looking for some avenue to enforce compliance with our city ordinances.”
The city council has declined to fund a separate ordinance officer position in the past. As recently as last August, the council’s Finance, Utilities and Property Committee cut funding for a part-time ordinance officer from the preliminary city budget.
Glendive Fire Chief George Lane said that any city employee going around town could easily spot any number of ordinance violations.
“I don’t think the problem is finding the issues, it’s enforcing the issues,” Lane said. “And I think if we could find a way to enforce the issues, that would go a mile.”
But when it comes to which ordinances to enforce, there’s some debate among council members and administrators on whether the city would be able to enforce so-called “aesthetic” issues.
“We have ordinances for sidewalks and weeds, and those are pretty easy if you want to enforce it,” said Public Works Director Jack Rice. “But how somebody’s yard looks, that’s pretty arbitrary.”
Alderman Matt Hull said it wasn’t the city council’s “place” to tell residents what their homes should look like, arguing that trying to enforce ordinances governing aesthetic issues was a slippery slope for the council to get involved in.Hull added that, as he saw it, the city’s “obligation is to enforce those things that are health and safety issues.”
Alderman Rhett Coon pointed out that in larger cities in Western Montana like Bozeman and Missoula, aesthetic issues are largely handled through homeowner’s associations in both new subdivisions and older neighborhoods that have formed them.
Hull said he believed encouraging the formation of homeowner’s associations in Glendive’s existing residential neighborhoods and new developments could be “part of the solution” towards addressing aesthetic issues like unkempt lawns and junk piled in yards.
“It could be successful if we could encourage more active citizenship and participation in our neighborhoods,” Hull said about the possibility of forming homeowner’s associations throughout town.
Committee members ultimately took no action or made any recommendations based on Jimison’s suggestions.
“I think we need to have more discussion,” Hull said.
Reach Jason Stuart at email@example.com.