Nuisance officer and downtown buildings dominate Trenton Administrative Committee meeting

City of Trenton Website

Discussion of two topics dominated a meeting last night of the Trenton City Councils’ Administrative Committee. One involved downtown buildings with the other designating one person to handle nuisance violations on behalf of the city.

For the last few years, Trenton Police officers have been responsible for investigating nuisances such as tall weeds, automobile parts; trash and debris. At least two members of the committee voiced their belief someone other than a police officer should respond to complaints and investigate nuisances.

Councilman William Lou Fisher noted the police department is two officers short of authorized strength. And he suggested funds being held for those positions could be obligated to pay for a nuisance officer during the rest of the current fiscal year, with long-term funding of the position determined at a later time but before the next city budget is developed. Others expressed a need to determine the long-term funding solution in the near future rather than wait until next year. Ultimately, the Administrative Committee referred the funding issue to the city councils’ finance committee for review.

Fisher mentioned, and Police Chief Tommy Wright concurred, that it’s likely the two police officer positions may remain unfilled due to lack of applicants. Jen Hottes stated it should not be the police officer’s job to tell people to mow their grass and Travis Elbert said it’s not the most productive use of a police officers time.

City Clerk Cindy Simpson said fines levied in the municipal court regarding nuisance violations are a minimal amount of revenue, less than one percent, of the city budget. She added it’s not enough to pay the city attorney’s time in prosecuting the cases nor the salary of the part-time municipal court clerk employed by the city.

There also was a discussion that the person hired as a nuisance officer receive training on building inspections and code enforcement with the idea such individual could take over that position when Donnie Vandevender retires in a couple years.

There was a discussion that a job description will need to be developed as the investigation of nuisances involves quite a bit of paperwork, including a letter of non-compliance, before writing a ticket. Other discussion included the possibility of the city imposing an administrative fee to cover actual costs when the city has to mow someone’s property. City Administrator Ron Urton stated the nuisance and code officer position could cost $30,000 with benefits.

The committee also met with Economic Developer Micah Landes and two officers of the Trenton Downtown Improvement Association, Dave Bain, and Cathie Smith. Bain pledged the association will work with the city council. There have been some new owners for certain downtown buildings along with some upper story renovations for housing. The meeting also focused on required building code updates that the city council will vote on in July.

It also appears the existing historic preservation board will become active after not meeting for several years. That board does have six appointed members plus one vacancy. Trenton also has a historic preservation ordinance.

Significant points of having such an ordinance include increased property value, protection of historic resources, promotion of economic development, increased tourism, a better quality of life, and promotion of a historic preservation ethic.

Micah Landes said the board, on behalf of the city, could apply for status as “certified local government” which she noted could open the door to obtain federal funds that could help property owners with things like windows, energy efficiency, disaster planning, and professional guidance on building remodeling. Certain buildings also could be eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places which qualify for historic tax credits.

Cathie Smith explained the Trenton Downtown Improvement Association has money to make low-interest loans to property owners. Several loans made in the past have been paid off, allowing for the association to continue to have revolving loan money. Mrs. Smith said there are currently eight or nine loans on the books. The downtown district, as previously mapped, is considered from Main and Crowder to the west city limits and one block of properties either side of that corridor.

While many of the downtown buildings are old and may not have had much upkeep through the years, Mrs. Smith said they still hold “historical integrity” that with proper guidance and resources, can be updated.

Administrative committee members at the meeting last night were Dave Mlika, Glen Briggs, Jen Hottes, and William Fisher. Also present councilmen Larry Crawford and Travis Elbert; Mayor Nick McHargue among other city officials.