Ordinance targets delinquent code fees

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Ignoring notices from Portales code enforcement officers could become significantly more expensive under an ordinance revision under review by the Portales City Council.

Sgt. Brack Rains and Chief Jeff Gill of the Portales Police Department presented a report detailing the number of actions police had taken recently on code enforcements such as unmowed weeds, abandoned cars and appliances.

They also presented a proposed ordinance that would take the administration fee for the city’s abating those problems from $50 to $200, plus the cost of the mowing, hauling or cleanup. The ordinance, fashioned from one the city of Alamogordo has in place, would also provide for an 8 percent interest charge and shorten the time for compliance.

In addition, the ordinance would allow the fines and fees to be included on the city utility bill going to that customer. City attorneys said that action would provide a better tracking method for the fines, but shutting city utility service off wouldn’t be possible.

Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. worried that if that kind of action couldn’t be taken, the ordinance might still lack the necessary teeth.

“What this is going to do is get the abatement process accomplished more quickly,” Gill said. “I would love to charge this on the water bill and shut their water off, but there are problems with that.”

City manager Debi Lee said Alamogordo had achieved a 53 percent improvement in compliance after adopting similar methods.

“The issue is, how much money does the city want to invest in abatement,” Lee said.
The mayor and other councilors confirmed they thought it was a major issue and instructed police officials to request more money for abatement in their budget hearings.

“The ordinance as it is now is not working,” Rains said. “The reality is I can take your children from your home quicker than I can get you to mow your lawn.”

Lee said she planned to advertise a workshop April 25 as a special meeting so that an intent-to-adopt the ordinance could be placed on the agenda.

In other business councilors:

• Approved a change order on the city pool renovation project, adding one item and taking another off for a net change of $100 more.

• Passed a resolution supporting the Special Operations mission at Cannon to be read at upcoming environmental impact hearings.