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Litter warning or not? Athens laws conflict
Old ordinance not repealed after council OK'd new policy

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — The city is and isn't violating its own ordinances by not issuing warnings before citing those who litter or have junk vehicles or overgrown weeds.

The problem is there are two ordinances that address those issues, and the council never repealed the old one.

A 2002 ordinance states that officers must issue a warning for a first offense. However, the council revamped that ordinance in 2006. That ordinance states that officers do not have to issue warnings.

New added to old

The problem is the City Council voted to "add" the revamped version to the 2002 version.

"We didn't repeal 2002, so basically, one says we will warn and one says we won't," City Clerk John Hamilton told the council Monday.

A week ago, the Police Department issued a press release that it would no longer issue warnings, and it was going to step up clean community enforcement. That resulted in officers issuing 104 citations in five days, most for junk vehicles.

Mayor Dan Williams said recipients of citations have threatened litigation. He called an executive session to discuss pending litigation with the city's attorney Shane Black.

New law being written

Chief Wayne Harper said city attorneys rewrote the ordinance again to separate junk vehicles from litter and weed control, and are writing a new litter- and weed-control ordinance to make it less confusing. The ordinances will not require warnings.

Councilman Ronnie Marks introduced the new junk-vehicle ordinance and said the council can vote on it at its April 30 meeting.

North Jefferson Street resident Carnell Robinson said he wants the city to continue enforcement and visit his neighborhood. Robinson said one neighbor "fools on junk vehicles all day." Robinson said he doesn't think the neighbor has a business license and that he brings in wrecked cars at night and on weekends.

District 3 Councilman Jimmy Gill said the citations have impacted his district for the better. Gill said that last week "folks were moving cars and hauling cars away right and left."

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