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Red Bank residents ‘tired of decay’

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Decaying properties such as this one on Sweetland Drive are a point of concern for the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association which they hope can be addressed through the enforcement of the city’s housing maintenance codes. Photo by Emily Crisman

Not only does Red Bank not have a dedicated codes enforcement officer, now it also doesn’t have a dedicated city manager. Former City Manager Chris Dorsey, who was responsible for enforcing codes, was let go several weeks ago.

“Now he’s gone there are no excuses,” said a Red Bank resident tired of hearing commissioners blame Dorsey for the city’s problems who requested to remain anonymous.

The hunt is on for a new city manager, but not a full-time codes officer.

“We will be working with the current people that we have and Public Works will collectively be handling it,” said interim City Manager John Alexander. “We’re keeping things going on the day-to-day operation and looking to pursue a city manager, hopefully in the near future.”

Codes are enforced by Public Works Director Tim Thornbury and Public Works official Jimmy Mathis at the discretion of the city manager, which means Alexander is now the responsible party.

“They need to have a codes enforcement officer,” said Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association chair Erin Creal. “The city manager [Dorsey] said we needed a full-time officer, but the commission said the staff could do it. People are violating the codes and nothing is happening to them.”

The city’s former officer dedicated specifically to codes enforcement was let go in May, and the position removed from the budget.

At the neighborhood association’s last meeting, Creal and other Red Bank citizens voiced concerns over neighboring businesses and homes which have become eyesores and even health concerns due to decay, unsanitary and unsightly conditions for which no one seems to be responsible, effectively eroding their neighborhood pride.

“Our goal is to make Red Bank a better place to live, which we can’t do without current codes and enforcement of those codes,” said Creal. “All codes need to be updated and consistent so there are no legal loopholes. Absentee landlords are a problem.”

In addition to hiring a full-time administrative codes officer, citizens suggested increasing fees for code violations. A full-time officer could ensure fines are levied against code violators, which Creal said could cover the salary for the position in time.

“We’ve got some good people in place who care about doing their jobs,” said Red Bank City Commissioner Greg Jones, who attended the meeting with Commissioner Ruth Jeno. “We are somewhat limited, but our folks are working hard.”

Jones said he and Commissioner Floy Pierce have an interest in working toward revising the current codes. They attended the meeting to gather input from citizens on possible revisions.

“We’re tired of looking at the decay and nothing being done,” said Jeno.

The same anonymous resident said she would like for the commission to pass an ordinance which would prevent residential property owners from changing the zoning of their property to prevent new apartment complexes and duplexes in the area.

“Low rent breeds crime,” she said.

Jones said out-of-state landlords who own buildings for tax write-off purposes are a big problem in Red Bank.

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