By C.J. Barbre

Last week the Sun-Gazette carried a story about new higher administrative fees for code compliance violations as it pertains to trash in rural areas. A subscriber called to ask the parameters of code compliance.

Although it appeared to start with the State of the County address given by Board of Supervisors Chairman and District 2 Supervisor Connie Conway, when she put cleaning up the county at the top of her agenda back in March, the Tulare County Grand Jury was already on the job. In their 2004-2005 report released last month, they concluded that "Rural Tulare County is inundated with trash in and around its unincorporated areas. The problem is not being addressed by the agencies involved. Rural trash collection is very expensive for the citizens of those unincorporated areas."

The Grand Jury reported to have traveled throughout the county starting in July 2004. What they found was "many parcels filled with trash, abandoned mobile homes and trailers, inoperative automobiles and dilapidated houses."

They also found that the actions of the Resource Management Agency (RMA) and Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) "have been ineffective, and neither agency was taking responsibility for the problem." RMA initially had only one code enforcement officer. The Board of Supervisors has since approved the hiring of a second officer, but it's a big county.

Last week we reported that RMA had gotten on the stick and increased fines to $1,050 if a code violation is ignored until after a hearing, and can go as high as $1,000 per violation per day if a violator has three or more consecutive violations in a year. If the fines are not paid, they become a lien on the property.

Regarding the cost of cleanup, the rural trash collection rates are established by the Board of Supervisors. A 30-yard box costs $6 per cubic yard or $180. There is a $41 per ton dump fee. The average tonnage in a 30 yard box is 3-9 tons, depending on the type of trash. A normal dumpster thus costs a total of between $303 and $459 per collection.

Under code compliance, "Accumulation of solid waste to be removed," the ordinance says, "Whenever any solid waste has been thrown of deposited upon any street, road, or private or public premises, or has accumulated thereon, the Health Officer shall give written notice to the owner, tenant or person having charge or control of said premises, to remove from the premises the substances so deposited or accumulated. It shall be unlawful for the owner, tenant or person having charge or control of said premises to neglect or fail to remove said solid waste from said premises within five days after the receipt of said notices."

There is nothing like wading through county ordinances, but those who need to know more can go to www.co.tulare.ca.us/government/clerk_of_the_board/ordinance.asp and check under particular types of ordinances.

Honestly, we pretty much know what trash and unkempt properties look like. Who do you call? The Tulare County Sheriff's Department at 733-6241 and ask for a code compliance officer, however our call was not returned by press time, nor was a call to RMA, although the specific person in whose message box a message was left could be on vacation.

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