The City of Taft is taking more steps to crackdown on blight and code violations in the city.
These steps include a more aggressive approach to collecting the costs related to nuisance abatement and demolitions as well as new fees for property owners who leave their structures vacant, especially commercial buildings in the downtown area.
Instead of the city cleaning up blighted, dangerous and unhealthy structures and property at taxpayer expense and then placing a lien on the property, which may not get collected for years, a new ordinances would also impose fines and penalties that would be assessed on property taxes if not paid promptly.
The Taft City Council on Tuesday approved the first reading of an ordinance that would add civil fines and penalties that would be assessed through administrative hearings.
"This (current) procedure can take several months and could potentially take several years to recoup the funds already expended on the property," a city staff report said. "Approving the proposed Administrative Citations and Penalties would start assessing the fees in a short period of time and then if not paid during a specified period, it would then be placed as an assessment on their next year's property tax bill."
Mayor Paul Linder said it's about time.
He's tired of the lengthy abatement process and the even longer process for the city to get its money back. The council voted on the proposed ordinance just a few minutes after approving $55,000 in liens.
"What are we going to do to get people to be responsible property owners?" he asked.
Then he answered his own question
"We're putting some bite in our bark because we are tired of waiting for people to pony up and pay," he said.
City manager Craig Jones said its something city staff needs to help enforce the codes.
"This is a tool to help up more readily do our job," he said.
The city is also going to start assessing fees and conducting yearly code inspections, targeting the owners of businesses that have sat empty for years in the downtown corridor.
Jones said they also want to become more aggressive about ensuring that buildings considered vacant but are still utilizing the trash pickup and sewer services pay that part of their tax bill, too.