NORWICH — The City of Norwich has hired a new ordinance inspector to help the code enforcement office stay on top of ordinance violations and clean up the city.
"The plan is to try to put more focus on making sure that we kind of raise the bar on some of the properties," said City of Norwich Fire Chief Jan Papelino, who oversees the code enforcement office.
"The bottom line is, we do have some properties that are pretty troublesome, and we’re hoping to get some more attention on those whether it be a homeowner that’s living there or whether it’s a landlord, and getting them to get to do the things they need to do," he added. "We’re just hoping to try to, within the city code and building codes and ordinances, try to get these properties improved."
City of Norwich Mayor Brian Doliver said the new officer will be focusing on the four major issues seen in the city: high grass, shoveling sidewalks in the winter, cleaning up garbage, and removing unregistered vehicles.
"This is something that’s been needed for some time in our community," said Doliver. "We felt the best way forward with the increase of code issues was just another person on the street. They’re going to be doing the basic stuff, and my hope is we can start to work on the real core issues."
The city already has two ordinance inspectors, and hired City of Norwich resident Harold Cole as the third, who began earlier this week. Doliver said the extra set of hands will not only allow the department to stay on top of violations easier, but also tackle the daunting task of verifying and enforcing dog licensing.
"We have a list of every person that has gotten a dog license over the years, and that doesn’t mean that there's not other dogs out there; there is. So there may come a time where they literally will have to go door to door and just start talking to people," he said. "It’s really a public safety issue. It’s not a money maker, this is a public safety issue and your dogs need rabies shots. I mean, that’s why we do licensing is for the rabies shots, because it's important."
Additionally, Cole will be spending a lot of time driving through the city and making sure properties are maintained according to city ordinances.
"They’ll go around and try to make sure that properties are cleaned up and the waste and refuse and stuff is properly stored and cleaned up," Papelino said. "We check for registration on cars so we don’t have unregistered vehicles. Each property is allowed to have one unregistered vehicle, if it’s in a garage it’s not a problem, but if it’s outside it needs to be fitted with a tarp, a fitted tarp or a fitted car cover. And then they go around and make sure that sidewalks are cleared of snow and ice."
"If people don’t get them cleaned we try to give them some notice. If the stuff doesn’t get cleaned we’ve got some contractors that will usually do the work, and ultimately the homeowner gets a bill for that work," he added.
All three ordinance inspectors will also be handling rental inspections. Papelino said before a landlord has a new tenant move into a rental property, they must have it inspected by the code enforcement office. Rental inspections are $25, but if they are not done the landlord can be subjected to a $200 fine.
Doliver said city residents have been asking for a change in terms of code and ordinance enforcement, due to unmaintained properties in various neighborhoods. He hopes the new inspector will help to mitigate some of these concerns.
"The residents have really been upset. It’s nothing you could ever get perfect, but I think the thing is to have more visibility that we’re out there, and we’re being able to get on top of some of these issues," he said.
Ultimately, the goal is to clean up the city, both to make it look nicer and make it a safer place to live.
"The idea is help to get our communities and our neighborhoods cleaned up. When you come into a town and you see garbage and you see high grass, it’s an eyesore, and I think that’s one thing we could all do for our community, if we all take care of our own places," said Doliver. "We’re not here to make people's lives harder, but our job is public safety and we have to do that, and when we live close together we have to be mindful of our neighbors."