Jackson Code Enforcement struggles to deal with blight due to staffing, tight budget

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 10:34 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - With an extensive number of dilapidated properties throughout the Capital City, it can be hard to tell whether the city’s code enforcement system is working.

Just ask Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley who’s been seen in the past cleaning up eyesores on his own dime.

“Blight is like a cancer, and if you don’t fix that cancer, it’s going to spread,” Hartley said.

The city of Jackson’s Director of Planning and Development Jordan Hillman said at the city council’s most recent meeting that a staffing shortage is preventing code enforcement from being as effective as it could be.

However, she said the department recently filled 5 vacancies. This brings the office to a total of seven code enforcement officers and two supervisors.

“We are at what would be full-staff for what we’re budgeted for at this point, but I wouldn’t call that full-staff for what is needed by any means,” Hillman said.

Hartley and Council Vice President Angelique Lee were happy to hear about the increased manpower.

Lee said at the meeting that her office alone has submitted 137 code enforcement violations within the last year and only 11 have been handled.

“I’m hoping with this new addition that we’ll be able to tackle some of those [properties] that people have been waiting for years to get resolved,” she said.

Hillman went on to say that staffing isn’t the only challenge code enforcement faces.

Another is having to work on a tight budget.

“Sometimes there are properties where there just isn’t anybody to go after,” she said. “Functionally, it’s an LLC that we cannot get to. We cannot find the person. It’s an estate. That’s where our limited budget steps in and we can only perform so many city-performed cleanups per year, so there are times where there are properties that will sit longer than any of us can imagine just because if we are the only ones left to deal it, we have to work within the budget we’re given.”

When asked whether he hopes to see the city budget more money for code enforcement next year, Councilman Hartley said he first wants to make sure the money they currently have is spent properly.

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