Sunday, July 13, 2014

Editorial: Junk car czar needs scrutiny

August 24. 2013 7:45PM
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Most of the incidents involving junk car complaints in Lima are being dealt with amicably. A police officer makes a resident aware of an issue and the resident takes care of the problem — moving the car into a garage or paying to have it towed.

The system appears to be working fine.

Thus, we are puzzled by the proposal before council’s Community and Economic Development Committee that’s seeking $60,000 to $70,000 to hire a full-time “junk car czar.” That is a lot of money to spend to fix something that is not broken.

Lima Community Development Director Amy Sackman Odum sees the plan as the ideal way to fulfill a request by 4th Ward Councilman Tom Tebben, who wants to see a proactive system that uses an inspector to look for vehicles, instead of a system that responds to complaints.

That may sound good, but if no one is complaining about a junk car, is there really the need to have it towed away? It seems like a lot of money to spend for what likely will turn into a confrontation with an automobile owner.

We also wonder if this proactive approach is really going to rid the city of junk vehicles. There are still local and state codes a czar would need to follow before specifying a junk auto. This includes knowing the value of the vehicle, if it’s operable, if it has license plates and current tags.

Laws also allow for how a car must be kept on a property — it can’t be on the lawn, it must be on a hard surface. Meanwhile, the inspector can’t go on to a person’s property to inspect the vehicle; what’s seen must be seen from the public right of way.

State law also requires a longer notice be given before a person attempts to seize someone’s material property. This allows the property owner more time to deal with the situation.

Currently, a certified police officer handles most of the enforcement. The officer who does Lima’s enforcement has other responsibilities in addition to the junk vehicle work. We think taxpayers are getting a bigger bang for their buck under this system.

Before the talk about the city hiring a “junk car czar” gains too much traction, council members should closely scrutinize the wisdom of paying someone $70,000 to run needless reconnaissance missions.

Trust us, if neighbors are upset by junk vehicles, they will call.

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