The City of Bartlesville’s Neighborhood Services Division handles more than 3,000 nuisance complaints each year — and this year is looking like no exception, Community Development Director Lisa Beeman said Monday.
“We receive more than 3,000 complaints every year and are required to investigate every complaint we receive,” Beeman said. “This number has continually increased over the last ten years. Summer is, by far, our busiest time of the year.”
The Neighborhood Services Division, which is part of the Community Development Department, is responsible for investigating violations and enforcing the City’s Municipal Codes pertaining to private property maintenance issues. Consisting of just two field officers and a supervisor, plus an additional staff member who handles abatements, the division is so overwhelmed with calls that it is 100 percent complaint-driven, Beeman said.
“We respond on a complaint basis only,” she said. “We receive anywhere from twelve to twenty complaints every day. Our guys are only physically able to investigate around five to seven a day. We work every case in the order it is received. This time of year we do get backed up, but we will get to every one of them, and we work every case to its end. Because of this, staff simply doesn’t have time to drive around and check everybody’s yards. We often get questions about that — why one person was cited and someone else wasn’t. The answer is that we didn’t receive a complaint about that property.”
Violations most often reported involve high weeds, trash, junk vehicles and dilapidated structures or structures in disrepair, Beeman said.
“This time of year, in particular, we get a lot of complaints about fences that are falling over due to heavy vines and weed growth, as well as junk in people’s yards,” she said. “Often someone will put something in the yard with the intention of getting rid of it later. But then, for whatever reason, it’s still in the yard weeks or months later and has become a harbor for snakes, rats, mice and other animals. Unsecured structures, structures with broken windows and that sort of thing are also common complaints.”
Beeman also cautions that vehicles that are not in working order should be kept in the garage — not the yard, and fifth wheels, RVs and boats must be parked on the side of the home when possible rather than in the driveway or in front of the house.
“We get a lot of complaints from neighbors who have trouble seeing around these recreational vehicles to pull out of their driveways,” she said.
Beeman said that while citations are issued and other actions may be taken if a property owner refuses to comply with City ordinances, the department makes every effort to work with owners to bring the property into compliance.
“We try to be as understanding as we can be, and we strive for voluntary compliance,” she said. “But there are cases when safety is an issue or when an unmaintained property brings down property values for other residents in the neighborhood. We work hard to make the process fair and reach an agreement with these property owners to get the problem resolved.”
Effective July 1, the City has a program in place to help residents who are unable to financially afford property maintenance repairs. During the budget process in June, the City Council approved the allocation of funds to assist property owners with roof replacements they otherwise would be unable to make. The City will pay for a portion of the roof replacement cost for qualified recipients.
“It is important to note this is not a program that you apply for,” Beeman said. “These are for properties that are identified during the complaint process that are in dire need of roof replacement, and the property owner is unable to financially afford a roof replacement.”
To report a property nuisance, visit the City’s website, www.cityofbartlesville.org and complete a complaint form or call 918.338.4230 and leave a message. Complaints are kept confidential. All complaints will be investigated and calls and emails will be returned upon request.