Police take lead in clean-up push

Community service trusties to assist in effort

City code enforcement remains under the umbrella of Craig Police Department duties, but with a proactive twist properties are going to get cleaned if Becky Otis has to do it herself.

Otis, who has spent 14 years with the Craig Police Department, recently transferred from her position as a dispatcher to become an administrative technician. This spring, she and fellow administrative technicians Dixie Beck and Lynne Krause took on the additional duties of code enforcement. Beck and Krause will concentrate on the paperwork while Otis hits the streets.

Otis presented a plan to the Craig City Council at its meeting Tuesday night that was called a positive step in code enforcement by council members.

Otis has started using people who are sentenced to community service to clean up Craig. She chooses property owners who, usually because of age or disability, cannot clean their property themselves and takes a crew of people sentenced to community service to take on the task of making sure their property complies with city weed, junk and nuisance ordinances.

"It's a fantastic idea," Mayor Dave DeRose said.

Properties cleaned by those sentenced to community service are chosen at Otis' discretion, but the property owner has to help. Otis said she wouldn't stand by and watch someone else clean a property while the owner stands back.

If a property owner refuses the assistance, then Otis said she will issue them a summons.

"I feel that if they don't take this help and I'm forced to give them a summons then (the judge) should know that we gave them a chance," she said.

Code enforcement was the job of the Craig Police Department until 1998 when former Police Chief Rex Splitt resigned his position to take the job full time as an employee of the city's building department. A citizen-driven ballot initiative to remove the full-time position failed in November of 2001, but Splitt had already left the job and Craig.

Because the position is a summer job, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta had one of his officers handle the duty in the summer and continue his patrol duties during the winter months.

Now, Vanatta is down two officers and doesn't have the people to spare. This spring, Otis, Krause and Beck offered to take on the responsibility.

"It's not a well sought after position," Vanatta said. "I don't have people lining up at the docks."

Vanatta said the three administrative technicians would continue to spend part of their time as code enforcement officers until the fall.

At that time, his force should be at full strength and the position will be re-evaluated.

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