The costs associated with cleanliness

With the Hunter’s Review now on the stands, life here at the newspaper will now shift back into normal gear for me. Over the past week or two, I have spent much more time taking care of business here and relying on our City Manager to keep me informed of the pressing issues of the day there at City Hall. I have been saying for nearly two months now that the cleanup effort in the City of Brady is coming and “get ready” because it is on its way. Well, it is happening and we have a short list of lots and problems we have addressed. The biggest issue folks in Brady have expressed to me since even before being elected mayor, is the desire to see a concerted effort in town to clean up overgrown and trashed out lots and deal with run down and dilapidated homes. A problem that has spiraled out of control over the past 30 years. The city council and I began an effort back in January to get the ball rolling on doing just that, but before we could make the first step, we needed to update our paperwork (ordinances) and begin a publicity campaign about what the rules are and what is and is not acceptable. I asked our city attorney to help the city devise a plan that would be as simple and effective as possible and one that would be easy to back up with regards to legal issues. Sure it would be easy to clean up many of these problem areas around town, but the problem is, the cost to the citizens would be astronomical. The challenge’how can we get things cleaned up and have some recourse to recoup the dollars spent on cleaning up someone else’s mess. I received an email from a lady shortly after being elected to office berating me and my ideas about cleaning things up around the city. She told me that I/we (the council) were treading dangerously close to infringing on her civil rights. She went on to state that “it is not your nor the council’s place to decree or dictate to we, the people, what cars we drive, how long our grass is or the color of our houses, etc. “As long as there is no clear, present or even perceived danger to the public in general, it simply is not up to you to decide these things. You, as a government, may set out guidelines, but not autocratic laws based on your own preferences. This town is not a subdivision of Austin or San Francisco.” Well, my reply was simply put that the rules that were being talked about in the ordinances and documents are rules that the founding fathers of the City of Brady formed years ago when they formed the city charter that has been in place and revised over the years. I further stated that those rules are the same ones I, as the new mayor, was addressing and simply making an effort to enforce. Nothing new, only new ways to deal with problems that have, until now, on a large scale, never been enforced. I further stated that by purchasing a home within the city limits, she agreed to live by those rules which were put in place to provide a standard of living for all citizens. Fast forward to October, and the enforcement and cleanup effort has been put into effect at City Hall. We have a list of problem properties that have been cleaned up and a pending list of more that need to be cleaned. The list is short so far because of two reasons: first because we want to get our feet wet before we jump in. Second, the costs involved. I signed a check last week to a company for the costs associated with cleaning up two abandoned houses in the 1900 block of South China and the removal of an old mobile home that had been left on a lot on Hackberry Street. That check was written for $2,350. With that check, also came a lien on the properties involved for the costs to the city. The city could write all the checks in the world and have this town cleaned up in no time, but that wouldn’t be prudent business or wise use of taxpayers’ dollars. The other problem is that if people are not held accountable, the tendency for history to repeat itself will most likely come to fruition and the messes we clean up will end up in that same state in only a matter of months, weeks or even days. The city staff is working diligently to identify and rectify problem areas around town. Some are more visible than others, but none-the-less, they are all important. Right now in the early stages of our efforts, we are working to target opportunities that will afford the city the easiest and quickest way to recoup its costs. All that being said, I reiterate the fact that the rules that are being enforced are rules that have been there for years. Those who have issues with following the rules now probably had issues following the rules then. The most positive thing I have noticed is the feeling I get around town when I bump into folks, whether it is on the street, in a restaurant or at City Hall, and they make comments about the positive attitude that is emerging. That means we have succeeded at getting the huge ball rolling in the right direction. We have made mistakes in the past, and will most likely make some in the future, but by learning from those mistakes, we, the citizens of this town, will continue to bolster the pride we have in our small Central Texas town.’JS

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