Soddy Daisy Council Members Unhappy With Judge Lasley; Hire Administrative Hearing Officer

Friday, February 17, 2017 - by Gail Perry

For the last several years, officials in Soddy Daisy have been trying to clean up the city. That has involved issuing citations to properties that are not in compliance with the city codes, and in some cases buildings have been condemned or demolished. At last count, said City Manager Janice Cagle, 42 properties have been brought back up to code with repairs, remodeling or cleaning them up.


About the same number remain on the list whose owners have made no attempt to correct the problems.

The city’s codes enforcement officer can give fines of $50 per day, maximum. The commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday night to establish the office of administrative hearing officer. This will allow the city manager to hire a person who will have the authority to issue more substantial fines - up to $500 for violations. If the fine is not paid, the enforcement effort can be taken to Chancery Court.


Each commissioner also expressed displeasure with the city court’s record of enforcement and the collection of fines and court costs. The city is owed $500,000 in fines and fees that have accumulated over the past seven years. City Judge Marty Lasley is in his second year of an eight-year term. Council members claimed it is his responsibility to collect fines and fees but it has failed to be done. City Recorder Burt Johnson said the court has been losing between $75,000 -$80,000 each year above what it brings in. That leaves the city taxpayers supporting the court, said Commissioner Gene Shipley.


Commissioner Shipley said he voted to hire an administrative hearing officer because the city is paying a codes enforcement person, automobile expenses and overtime for the court and is still losing money on enforcement. He said that he hopes the person in the new position can make a difference. “I regret our judge didn’t do it,” he said. "I want to do all I can to collect the half million dollars that are the result of all types of violations in addition to the building codes." He said some of the same people who are cited to court repeatedly do not have respect for the judge or the court, referencing as an example, communication from a citizen earlier in the meeting.


The citizen asked the commission for help to stop a neighbor from constantly bringing items to his property and burning them causing a fire hazard and thick smoke and ash enveloping the neighborhood. This has constantly taken place even during times when outdoor burning was banned, he said. The police and fire departments have responded repeatedly to the complaints and the man has been in court twice about the burning issues and for hitting golf balls into neighboring yards threatening cars and windows, yet he continues to do those things, it was stated. Fire Chief Mike Guffey told the commissioners that for the violations the man only gets his hand spanked by the judge. The next time it happens, the neighbor was told to call the Air Pollution Control Bureau which can write a ticket and he will be bound to court in Chattanooga.


“I’m tired of people getting just a slap on the wrist with no repercussions,” said Commissioner Rick Nunley.


“I’d like to echo what they’re saying,” said Mayor Robert Cothran.


At the commission meeting on Feb. 2, the commission voted to rezone multiple properties in the oldest part of the city in an attempt to clean up spot zoning. Several properties on Wall and Clayton streets were overlooked at that time, so were rezoned from C-3 general business to R-2A rural residential district at the meeting Thursday night.


The mayor was authorized to sign an Interlocal agreement with Hamilton County so the city will not be responsible for paying half of the cost for property reappraisals that will be done in 2017.


Bids were approved for a salt shed at $7,000, the purchase of a lawn tractor for $25,000, and lighting and accessories for two new police vehicles for $9,582. All were budgeted items.


The additional cost of $40,956 was approved for a change order made to the current road project. The project was stopped because of the proximity to gas lines, which have now been relocated. Additional work will still be required, causing the extra expense. It will come from the city’s State Street Aid Fund. 

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