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The Athens Police Dept. stepped up its enforcement of clean community regulations, citing 23 residents with junk vehicles in their yards and two others because of weeds and littler.
Photo courtesty of the Athens Sanitation Dept.
The Athens Police Dept. stepped up its enforcement of clean community regulations, citing 23 residents with junk vehicles in their yards and two others because of weeds and littler.

Athens police cite 25 for junk violations
Council president says enforcement for clean community spurs complaints

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — The vehicle has flat tires and has sat in a woman's yard for two years.

Yet, this property owner cannot believe police cited her for breaking the city's junk vehicle ordinance.

That's according to Athens City Council President Harold Wales, who said he received complaints Tuesday about increased enforcement.

On Monday, Athens police officers found 25 clean community violations in the city.

"This woman with the car said she planned to get it fixed and sell it," Wales said. "She didn't feel she should have been cited. I told her the officers were just doing their jobs, and that this had been in the newspaper. She said she read it but didn't think police would really start this soon."

Police issued a press release last week stating that officers no longer will issue warnings for clean community violations, and that starting Monday, officers would cite property owners to appear in court.

"Several junk vehicles were removed before Monday due to the media coverage of our efforts," Capt. Marty Bruce said.

On Monday, officers issued 23 citations for junk vehicles. Officers issued two other citations for weeds and litter.

Bruce said the department has allocated one officer per shift to work with the two code enforcement officers on clean community issues.

That resulted from the City Council's push to make Athens more attractive to industry prospects and newcomers from the federal Base Realignment and Closure process that's moving military jobs to Redstone Arsenal.

Those who got citations Monday and who get citations in the future have five days to clean their property and remove junk vehicles. Those who refuse will have to go to court.

The fine for junk vehicles is $30 plus $146 in court costs. The litter fine is $200 plus court costs.

Capt. Tracy Harrison said those who clean their property in five days can call Athens Police at 233-8700 and ask for an inspection. If the property is clean, an officer will sign off on it.

"That doesn't relieve them from the fine and court costs, however," Harrison said. "It just means they don't have to go to court. They can come pay their fine at the city clerk's office like paying a traffic ticket."

Harrison said several property owners argued with his patrol officers over the citations.

"Some folks got upset, but we didn't have to arrest anybody," Harrison said. "Most understood why they got a citation."

Wales said he could handle citizens' complaints.

"Everybody from officers to the judge are going to step up and enforce this, so folks need to be aware of that," Wales said.

Mayor Dan Williams said he was surprised that he didn't receive any complaints.

"They'll probably start calling the mayor's office when they start paying those fines," Williams said.

Black community members did call the mayor and invite him and Chief Wayne Harper to meet Tuesday night at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church to talk about more enforcement.

"The church is worried about the neighborhood around it and wants that cleaned up," Williams said.

The church is west of downtown Athens on Westmoreland Avenue.

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