Tamaqua is considering enacting a "quality of life" ordinance.
Recently, borough council's housing and neighborhood committee held their meeting in conjunction with the South Ward neighborhood committee meeting to discuss how the ordinance could be effectively implemented in town. The outcome of that discussion was brought back to Council.
"The short of it is that this ordinance can be easily and readily enforced. We're talking about simple issues: tall grass, garbage put out prior to 24 hours before pickup, things that you could fix on a moment's notice," explained Mayor Christian Morrison.
Similar, although much more complex, ordinances have been enacted in Hazleton and Allentown, according to Morrison. The ordinance would give borough representatives, including police, code enforcement, or other deputized individuals, the ability to issue an immediate citation, similar to a parking ticket, if the ordinance was violated.
Currently, similar issues must be tackled under code enforcement, and can take weeks or months to get resolved. Numerous individuals have attended borough council meetings to complain about neighbors who are not maintaining their property and have been told that the property is "in the process" of being cited. The quality of life ordinance would offer a more instant form of relief for the community.
"These are items you could take care of immediately. If you don't do it within 24 hours, you'll be cited again, if you, say, go out and shovel your snow or cut your grass, you won't be cited again," he said. "Additionally, the citations could be incremental, the first citation $25, the second $50, then $100."
Council president Micah Gursky said that the borough is looking at six specific instances to build the initial ordinance around: grass and weeds; junk cars; garbage out too soon; snow and ice removal; garbage and rubbish; and indoor furniture being used outdoors.
Police chief Dave Mattson said that the ordinance could be beneficial to the community, citing the lengthy amount of time that goes into simply preparing the citations under the current ordinance, in addition to the time it takes to administer them. "The beauty of this is it's just that simple," he said.
Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt said that this ordinance will not do much to address the current problems associated with absentee landlords, but that it will help cut down on the paperwork associated with the non-repeat offenders. "The current process takes a long time," he said.
Morrison echoed his sentiments, saying that in the case of high grass especially, it can take months to resolve the issue, and the grass continues growing.
Councilman John Trudich expressed frustration with the fact that the borough has many ordinances which are not being enforced, and this ordinance will not do the community any good if it is not enforced.
Council had a brief discussion concerning the codification of the borough's ordinances, which has not been done since 1972. "It's time," said Gursky.
Council asked borough solicitor Michael Greek to begin to prepare a quality of life ordinance for review.