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County commission cites junk areas

Escambia County Commissioners are taking the wishes of county residents seriously as citations for violations of the county’s junk ordinance are issued and enforced.

Property owners and tenants of 23 Estates Lane in Atmore appeared before the commission Monday in a hearing to discuss citations issued for junk ordinance violations.

Property owner Eloise Peacock and tenants Melvin and Rhonda Kendrick were cited by Escambia County Environmental Officer Nancy Barton after an investigation found the property to be in violation of the ordinance.

County Commission Chairman David Stokes said a hearing held Monday was necessary following citations being issued and is done in accordance to the wishes of Escambia County residents.

“The residents of this county overwhelming voted in favor of this (junk and nuisance) ordinance in November 2006,” Stokes said. “It is this commission’s responsibility to carry out that ordinance to the best of our ability.”

Barton said the owners and tenants were first notified of possible violations in October 2009.

“In October 2009 I sent a courtesy letter to the residents to inform them of the complaints against the property and to let them know they were in violation of the ordinance,” Barton said. “I took pictures at the property then and took pictures again this past Friday.”

Barton said the tenants were served a notice of violations March 1 with an official citation issued March 17.

“After the initial letter was sent in October, the tenants came into my office and conveyed to me they knew they were in violation,” Barton said. “A lot of work has been done. The appearance of the property had improved by rearranging of the junk.”

Two families who live adjacent to the property began the process that brought the Kendricks and Peacock to the hearing Monday.

Barton said neighbors had made complaints to her officer concerning junk cars, tires and the burning of non-organic materials on the property saying the situation was a hazard and a nuisance to the neighborhood.

“The things on the property do constitute a nuisance according to the ordinance,” Barton said. “I do think it is a danger for the harboring of roaches, rats and snakes. Also burning non-organic materials releases toxins into the air that can be dangerous.”

County Attorney Thad Moore conducted the hearing giving both offenders and complainants an opportunity to voice concerns in the situation.

“Based on the evidence I would agree this is in violation of the county’s ordinance against junk,” Moore said. “At this point, the commission can make a decision whether it is in violation.”

Following a discussion by commissioners, a unanimous vote was cast to uphold the citation issued through Barton’s office.

“You will have 30 days to comply with the ordinance,” Stokes told the violators. “At that time a $150 per day fine will be imposed.”

Commissioner Larry White said hard work is good, however it does not excuse violations of the county’s ordinances.

“I appreciate someone trying to make a living,” White said. “But the evidence shown here today shows you are in violation of an ordinance passed by the citizens of this county.”

The Kendricks and Peacock will have until June to comply with the decision of the commission.