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Operation clean sweep starting in Chapel Hill

Monday, July 23, 2007

Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper has announced the town is starting "Operation Clean Sweep," a beautification project in conjunction with the state's Three Star Community program conducted by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Enforcement with citations against overgrown lots, weeds, junk and health nuisances is to begin on Aug. 1, Cooper said in an announcement that's being continued in the advertising columns of the Marshall County Tribune as a warning to residents about town officials' intentions.

To maintain their Three Star Community designation, and therefore remain eligible for state grants, towns like Chapel Hill must maintain certain standards for their appearance. Town leaders want to remain eligible for grants because they help pay for public safety equipment, water and sewer pipe improvements and extensions.

"This goes back to something that's been discussed a number of times," Mayor Cooper said of "promoting a cleanup in certain areas of the community." While there's no intention "to identify any individual ... you have to start somewhere."

One of the steps toward Operation Clean Sweep came with the realization that some of the town's ordinances may not have been enforced for some time, Cooper explained.

"When you try to enforce some of the ordinances, and neglect them for a while, then individuals will become lax in doing what they should," he said.

That led to a decision to make an announcement before naming members of the Property Maintenance Board, a panel authorized by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on July 9.

"Our reasoning was to notify the people that there are some changes that are to be made in enforcing the ordinances," Cooper said. "We would appreciate the assistance of the people."

The Property Maintenance Board is to consider complaints about poorly maintained properties. An alternative is enforcement of related town ordinances and prosecuting residents in city court.

"We do not have a full-fledged committee," Cooper said of the Property Maintenance Board.

"I have names of some people, but I'm not ready to bring them into full session. We're not trying to brow beat anyone, but we can say, 'Hey, we can do this.' I could call names, but don't need to. Anybody  who drives around here would be able to see" what has attracted the attention of town officials, Cooper said.