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Meridian plans crackdown on blight

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — City officials say they are taking steps to crack down on blight in Meridian.

The Meridian Star reported (http://bit.ly/UBS9tN) tightened code enforcement efforts will target owners of decaying buildings, overgrown lots and debris-strewn properties.

City Councilman Randy Hammon said plans are being developed to hire a code enforcement manager and another officer, bringing the city's code enforcement staff to four.

"Basically, we had one and a half employees," Hammon said. "We don't have enough enforcement. We put money in the budget and then we didn't have the officers to carry out the mission."

Hammon has been a vocal proponent of strict enforcement of the city's code enforcement laws.

"Litter is a big thing here," Hammon said. "It is the lot clearing, cars put on jacks. It's people who just have trash; it's hoarders. Every city has this."

Community Development Director John McClure said the city will soon begin issuing tickets for violations of code enforcement ordinances.

"We are going to do this aggressively and work through the folks with the City Court," McClure said.

The City Council is expected to vote on a proposal soon to update Meridian's building codes.

Will Simmons, an attorney with the city's law firm of Glover, Young, Hammack, Walton and Simmons, said new training sessions for code enforcement officers will begin in August.

Earlier this year, council members suggested raising fines for unclean properties from $25 to $75 for the first offense and from $50 to $200 for the second offense. For a third offense, a fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail was proposed.

The council is expected to consider new fines as part of the process of revising its codes.

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Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com

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