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franklin county times

PC mayor: Time to fix overgrown lots, fire code, business license violations

Perhaps to some it’s been a long time coming, but Phil Campbell Mayor Steve Bell said the town council’s “kind of lax” attitude toward city codes is changing. A shake-up in coming in Phil Campbell.

“The No. 1 thing we heard while we were all campaigning was people complaining about their neighbors’ overgrown lots,” Bell said. “We’ve started to send some letters, and there are more coming.”

Bell said he and the council understood that after the tornado, it would take people time to clean up and get their residential properties back into shape. For five years now, the town has been lenient toward lingering rubble, waist-high overgrowth and dilapidated structures. Today, the time has come to turn a renewed focus on the aesthetics of Phil Campbell – beginning with the downtown area and slowly working outward.

Bell said dozens of properties will be subject to a letter from the city regarding conditions. To begin with, the squeaky wheel will get the grease. Properties about which the town has received complaints will be the first targets – “If somebody comes to us and complains about their neighbors, those are getting priority,” Bell said – followed by other lots in need of attention.

“There are a lot of abandoned lots next to people who have built home back,” said Bell, also mentioning non-resident, out-of-town landowners who haven’t cleaned up since the tornado. “With fall coming on and over the winter months, this is the time to do the clean-up.”

Bell said the town would far prefer Phil Campbell citizens to clean up their properties themselves, rather than the town having to take action. After receive a citation, citizens will be given a generous period of time to address problems themselves; however, if the situation is not resolved, Bell said the city has the authority to clean the property up themselves and place a lien on the property.

It’s not just people’s yards and vacant lots that have gotten the blind eye treatment. Bell said the town has also been lax on fire codes in downtown businesses – but no longer.

“To my knowledge it’s been years since any (inspections) have been done in Phil Campbell,” Bell said. With the constituency expressing concerns over misused extension cords as well as blocked exits, Bell said the city will be cracking down on violations to prevent potential fires as well as threat to life.

“Downtown, all these old buildings … if your neighbor catches one on fire, that whole side of town is going to burn,” Bell said.

Inspections are likely to begin in mid-November, once Phil Campbell goes through the transition process to the new administration.

In addition to putting a stop to fire code violations, Bell said the town will also begin inspecting for proper, unexpired business licenses for each Phil Campbell business. In the past, some businesses have assumed they were exempt from having a license, and Bell said the time has come to ensure each business owner is operating properly within the law.

“We want to make sure nobody is pushing the envelope thinking they don’t have to have a business license,” Bell said. “If you’re in a storefront, we think you ought to have a license.”

From Bell’s – and councilmembers’ – perspective, “It’s time for us to get a handle on all these other things that we need to take care of.”

For more information on any of the objectives, citizens may call Phil Campbell City Hall at 205-993-5313.