Brookfield trustees took strides to address property maintenance issues in 2019, including hiring a new code enforcement officer, demolishing a vacant home, removing the remains of a fire-damaged mobile home and getting court permission to remove junk vehicles from a property.
In 2020, they would like to do more, they said.
“I just think we need to amp it up,” said Trustee Dan Suttles.
Trustee Gary Lees agreed and said he wants to meet with Trumbull County Eastern District Court Judge Marty D. Nosich to explain the township’s position on code issues in cases where the township cites a property owner.
Lees and Trustee Ron Haun have complained about the court’s handling of property cases, although Haun added that the judge’s power is limited in such cases. The township has not cited anyone in years, and not since Nosich became judge a year ago.
Suttles asked Code Enforcement Officer Pete Ross to meet with township code enforcement attorney Jeff Goodman “about what you might need from him and what he has to offer.”
Lees said he wants to make a list of abandoned homes in Masury and make sure that the Trumbull County Land Bank is aware of them
and might be able to take possession of them and demolish them.
Suttles said he wants to reinvigorate the Exterior Property Maintenance Code Appeals Board – even if it has nothing official to do – and the trustees followed through on Feb. 3 by appointing Noelle Honel to a one-year term, Judy Puskar to a two-year term, Charles Fizet to a three-year term, Cynthia Mathews to a four-year term, Shannon Devitz to a five-year term and Gina Sabulsky as an alternate. All but Devitz had served on the board previously.
There is an opening for another alternate member and anyone interested in serving can contact the trustees.
The five-member board has not met for years, because there have been no appeals of township code enforcement actions. Suttles said he would like the board to meet periodically, even if there is no official business to act on, so “they’re abreast of what’s going on.”
The board will hold its first meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 in the township administration building, 6844 Strimbu Drive.
Suttles said he wants to use the code to its fullest extent, which includes filing citations in district court, and to jump to common pleas court only as a last resort because of the expense.
“It might be cumbersome, it might be time-consuming, but I think we should do it right,” Suttles said of enforcing the code.
Haun said a large majority of property owners contacted by the code officer take care of the issues. For those who don’t, it’s up to the trustees to take the next steps, and the trustees have been unwilling to do that because of cost or frustration over the process, he said. He suggested the trustees set aside money in the budget so that “if (Ross) runs into a big issue where it’s really a bad structure, that he can at least know that he has the ability to come to us and say, ‘OK, what did you put in my budget so that we can tear down this structure.’”
“It’s vital that people believe in the code,” Haun said. “They want to see it work.”
Lees agreed, saying it’s up to the trustees to educate residents on the purpose of the code and how it works.
The trustees also talked about trying to get the school district more involved in property issues and the tax issues that result from them; talking to the county treasurer to make sure the treasurer, who files tax foreclosure actions, is aware of township interests; publicizing tax delinquent properties; and asking state representatives to craft legislation that gives code enforcement actions more teeth.
“We’re not gonna get rid of all of them,” Suttles said of problem properties. “If we do small, little bites, we can eat the elephant.”