County officials say junk car ordinance needs some teeth
October 3, 2019
There's change coming for Wahkiakum County's Solid wast Nuisance Ordinance.
The county board of commissioners adopted the ordinance in 2016 to give the sheriff's office and Department of Health and Human Services regulations and processes to address accumulations of junk vehicles or other solid waste.
Commissioners and county officials have decided this year to add some teeth to the ordinance.
Since adoption of the ordinance, the county has had 38 cases to handle, Health and Human Services Department Chris Bischoff said Tuesday. Of those, 25 have been resolved and 13 are still open.
Eight of the 13 are in progress, he said, and of those eight, four are proving to be difficult to resolve.
Bischoff said his department, which is charged with initial handling of cases, doesn't patrol and look for problems. Instead, staff respond to reports and complaints from citizens.
In the beginning, they'll notify a property owner of the problem and necessary remedies and hope for voluntary compliance. If they can't achieve voluntary compliance, infractions can follow.
However, Bischoff said, some subjects are able to resist compliance, or they make initial compliance and later return to their earlier practices.
"The way the ordinance is written," Bischoff said, "if you build a fence, you basically can do what you want.”
Commissioners and officials discussed the issues Tuesday and agreed the ordinance needed some better definitions and to provide more enforcement authority for officials. A recommended change would be to raise the level of infraction so that cases would go before a judge if not resolved early on.
Bischoff said he would consult with the prosecuting attorney about changes and bring a draft to the reconstituted committee that developed the ordinance in 2015-16. That group will review the proposed changes and submit a final draft to the board of commissioners for a public hearing before amending the ordinance.