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Supervisors want 'more teeth' in property code

| Sunday, May 6, 2012, 4:03 p.m.

Hempfield Township supervisors may revise an ordinance to make it easier for the township to clean up cluttered properties.

Supervisors directed Les Mlakar, solicitor, to make draft revisions to the property maintenance code. The proposed changes could include giving the township the authority to clean up properties when residents ignore repeated requests to do the work themselves.

Mlakar said the township typically files six criminal citations monthly at the district magistrate level against residents for property maintenance issues that range from high weeds to junked vehicles. Judges can impose daily fines until the property is cleaned up, Mlakar said, but otherwise cannot force a cleanup.

The code could be revised to allow the township to conduct cleanups. Mlakar said the township could recover its costs by placing liens against the properties.

Other revisions are to include "putting more teeth" into sections of the code that address noise and public nuisances, Mlakar said. Currently, the ordinance describes such nuisances as any actions that "annoy or disturb" others.

The broad terminology has resulted in calls from residents who want the code used to stop neighbors from cutting grass on Sunday mornings, or to quiet ice cream trucks.

"The Good Humor man was riding through the neighborhood, and the music he was playing was annoying to a resident," said Rob Ritson, township manager, of a recent complaint. "That's the first sign of Armageddon, when you're calling in to complain about the Good Humor man."

Any proposed revisions will require supervisors' approval.

In an unrelated matter, Ritson told supervisors the municipal building's roof is leaking and must be replaced. Attempts to repair the flat, rubber roof have failed.

Money for a new roof will be factored in to the 2006 budget. Ritson said if the roof is bid out this fall, the project can be awarded over the winter, with work to begin as weather permits.

As part of the roof replacement, nine rooftop heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units must be replaced.

Ritson last night had no cost estimate.

Supervisors may authorize putting the roof out for bid when they meet 7 p.m. Monday at the municipal building on Woodward Drive.

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