Finding out the hard way… County residents face contempt after failing to address litter code violations

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 30, 2019



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Litter on personal property at one time could be laughed off or completely ignored, but that will not be the case any longer as evidenced by three Carter County residents finding themselves in Carter County Chancery Court on Wednesday to face a motion of contempt for not following through with court orders received on February 27, 2019.

Those orders handed down to Timothy Birchfield and Karen Hollifield, Billy Joe Miller, and Gene and Carol Woodard ended up with a mixed bag of judgments issued by Chancellor John Rambo in regards to the motion for contempt each faced.

Code Enforcement Officer Jay Cook said that the courtroom is not precisely where he prefers to end up with cases like this but unfortunately people do not take the charges serious enough and it leads to a court of law.

“Carter County’s litter code was changed in 2017 with the adoption of resolution 684 by the Carter County Commissioners,” stated Cook. “The resolution allows for property owners to receive a 30-day notification of the violation(s) that need to be addressed.

“If property owners contact us, we are more than willing to work out an extension plan with them if they are attempting to address the code violations.

“At the end of the 30 days, the owners will have 48 hours before we bring this to County Attorney Josh Hardin,” continued Cook. “They even have time during that 48 hours to work with us on an extension.

“There will be a post made in the newspaper for two weeks in regards to the violation of the litter code as well.”

The wording in the resolution passed on Monday, October 16, 2017, is clear as to what can be deemed a violation of the litter code as well as a nuisance by the Code Enforcement Officer and reads as follows:

-Pursuant to T.C.A. 5-1-115, the county may control and regulate litter, vegetation and vacant dilapidated structures on private property within the county if it is determined that any owner of record of real property has created, maintained, or permitted to be maintained on such property, the growth of trees, vines, grass, underbrush, and/or the accumulation of debris, trash, litter, garbage, or any combination of the preceding elements, or a vacant dilapidated building or structure, so as to endanger the health, safety or welfare of other citizens, or to encourage the infestation of rats and other harmful animals.

Cook went on to say that before the resolution was adopted by the county commission that there had been properties in his office for seven years covering four to five previous officers who couldn’t address the littering crisis before the commission’s resolution.

According to Cook, these violations continue to be extremely high as over the past 15 months, there have been 300 properties throughout the county written up for violating the code.

The county is in the process of getting even more stringent on violators of the litter code which can be addressed by three different methods after appearing before the judge if found in contempt: fines, the county cleans up the property and a tax lien is accessed to the property owner to cover the cost of cleanup, and the worst case scenario is jail incarceration for contempt until the violation(s) are appropriately addressed.

All three of the property owners were assigned another date to appear before Chancellor Rambo at which time other avenues will be pursued if the violations have not been addressed to satisfaction.