Archway Partnership pushing code enforcement cooperation agreement

The University of Georgia’s Clayton County Archway Partnership is asking government leaders across the county to agree to allow police code enforcement officers to cross jurisdictional lines, to do some of their work.

An agreement is being proposed to grant county and city code enforcement officers greater authority to remove unauthorized signs they see in public rights-of-way, in other jurisdictions, according to an Archway Partnership Executive Committee member who worked on the deal.

Executive Committee member, Sylvia Redic, explained that the current set up allows code enforcement officers to only deal with signs that are on public rights-of-way in their jurisdiction. If they see such a sign outside of their jurisdiction, even if it is just a few feet away, they have to call the code enforcement department for that jurisdiction, to have them remove the sign.

“The code enforcement officers have said they really don’t feel comfortable picking up signs in areas where they are not authorized to act,” Redic said. “So right now, they have to call the code enforcement officials for that particular jurisdiction, to notify them of the sign’s location, so it can be picked up. This memorandum grants them the authority to go beyond their borders to remove these signs.”

If the county commission, and each city government agrees to the memorandum, code enforcement officers from each government would have the authority to remove unauthorized signs on rights-of-way that are up to 50 feet inside neighboring, participating jurisdictions.

In other words, if a Clayton County code enforcement officer sees a sign on a public right-of-way, just inside the Morrow city limits, the officer would have the ability to remove the sign. Likewise, a code enforcement officer from Riverdale would have the same authority if he, or she, sees such a sign, on a right-of-way that is just outside the Riverdale city limits, in unincorporated Clayton County.

“What sense would it make to have to call someone else to deal with it, when I can just grab it myself,” said Redic, as she explained the mindset of code enforcement officials on this issue.

Code enforcement officers would not have the authority to take such an action, if they crossed county lines, into Henry, DeKalb, or Fayette counties, however.

Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady called the memorandum a “mechanism to help clean things up” around the county. He said Morrow’s code enforcement officers may sometimes leave the city limits before turning around to come back into the city during patrols, and come across these signs. The Morrow City Council approved the memorandum last Tuesday.

“Let’s say our code enforcement officers come down to the city limits,” Eady said. “Instead of just flipping around and coming back, sometimes they make a loop [outside the city limits] and come back around. That way, if they see an illegal sign in another city, they can go ahead and pull it up.”

Redic stressed that the memorandum will not mandate that code enforcement officers have to pick up any unauthorized signs they see on public rights-of-way just outside of their jurisdictions, however.

“We don’t want anyone to think that they have to do this, if everyone agrees to the memorandum of understanding,” she said. “If you choose to do so, and you are authorized to do so, then you can pick the signs up.”

And, how will the code enforcement officers know which signs are unauthorized to be in a public right-of-way? “All signage in public rights-of-way are unauthorized,” Redic said. “They are not picking up the signs to be mean. They are picking them up because they’re litter.”

Redic said she is going from city to city, and to the county commission, to pitch the memorandum of understanding. She said, in addition to Morrow’s approval of the agreement, Riverdale is the only other city that has, so far, agreed to sign it. She added, however, that the Forest Park City Council is expected to vote on the memorandum at its next meeting.

The Archway executive committee member said she expects to pitch the memorandum to county leaders, and to city officials in College Park, Jonesboro, Lake City, and Lovejoy at some point in early 2012.