Personal touch helping to better encourage residents to spruce up
May 30, 2018 01:04PM ● Published by Carl Fauver
Out-of-control weeds and grass can be a problem in Taylorsville this time of year. (Kathleen Richins/Taylorsville City)
By Carl Fauver | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Taylorsville residents had a funny thing happen as they were out pulling weeds and throwing junk in the garbage.
Mayor Kristie Overson jumped out of a car — filled with Taylorsville employees — to thank them.
“When we saw people working in their yards, the mayor asked us to stop for a minute so she could shake their hands and thank them for cleaning up,” said city Neighborhood Compliance Department Manager Kathleen Richins. “It was neat, and the people seemed to appreciate it.”
But it also begs the question, why was Overson cruising through neighborhoods with city employees?
“I heard the Neighborhood Compliance team was going to drive around with (City Manager) John Taylor to see what kind of problems they might see, as spring was arriving, so I asked to tag along,” Overson said. “Most of the areas we drove through were better than I expected. People take pride in their homes, and it was nice to speak with some of them.”
The Taylorsville Neighborhood Compliance Department is the four-person group to which residents can report problems. If your neighbor isn’t keeping his or her lawn cut, trees trimmed or immobile vehicles out of the street, you can call the department to take action.
And it seems as though team has learned the age-old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
“We used to be called code enforcers, and when we received a complaint we typically sent a letter to the offending resident,” Richins said. “But we have learned there are normally reasons why a yard needs mowing or a broken car isn’t moving. So now we try to make our first contact in person.”
In addition to responding to complaints, the Neighborhood Compliance team’s two officials — Deven Higgins and Jeff Gallegos — also drive Taylorsville streets looking for problems. When they find one, they stop to talk with the homeowners.
“When we first changed to a face-to-face contact policy, we were worried very few people might be home during business hours, but that’s not been the case,” Richins said. “If they aren’t home — or if there is a locked gate — then we leave a note. But we’ve found face-to-face contact to be much more pleasant and effective.”
Although unruly lawns and low-hanging branches over sidewalks are a problem, Richins said the biggest issue her compliance department comes across are cars parked in front of homes.
“Our city ordinance requires all vehicles parked on the street to move at least once every 24 hours,” Richins said. “But sometimes people leave cars parked at the curb that don’t run. I’ve seen some with two or three flat tires. We have to get people to move those because they are a safety hazard. The vehicles also make mail delivery more difficult and cause problems for snowplows in the winter.”
The Neighborhood Compliance Department and Overson agree that the goal is not to generate revenue from fines but to make Taylorsville cleaner and safer.
“We don’t want people’s money,” Overson said. “We just want people to show they care about their homes and how our city looks as a whole.”
In addition to Richins, Gallegos and Higgins, the fourth member of the Neighborhood Compliance Department is coordinator Kary Webb.
“Kary was just recently hired to work on several special projects,” Richins said. “For starters, she is now working to identify all of the utility boxes in our city that are in disrepair. Then she’s coordinating with Comcast, CenturyLink, Rocky Mountain Power and others to see they get repaired.”
Meanwhile, Higgins is on the job by 4 a.m. every Friday, tending to another issue.
“Deven drives around while it’s still dark, searching for streetlights that aren’t working,” Richins added. “We started him doing it two years ago, and more than 400 lights have been repaired since then.”
Taylorsville residents who are clearing junk and debris from around their homes should see neighborhood dumpsters appear in June. Also, Richins said all city households are entitled to receive up to two vouchers to haul two loads of junk to the landfill at no cost.
To request a landfill voucher — or to report a neighbor who needs some encouragement to clean up — call the Taylorsville Neighborhood Compliance Department at 801-955-2013.