With Mill Village Shaping Up, Council Sets Sights on Next Target

This map of the South Winnsboro area shows the progress, in green and yellow pins, made by Code Enforcement Officers in recent months. Red pins indicate remaining violations.

FAIRFIELD – Fairfield County is nearing the end of the first phase of enforcing their new property maintenance codes, which concentrated efforts on the South Winnsboro area, and as code enforcement officers gear up to target a second area of the county, Council Monday night received an update on the progress made thus far.

Standing before a map dotted with color-coded push pins, Dan Vismor, the consultant who helped the County put together the new rules, told Council that only 4 percent of the properties in the neighborhood remain in violation of the County’s new, tougher property codes. Twenty percent of the properties have corrected violations, while 9 percent are in the process of coming up to code.

Rental properties are the top violators of the maintenance codes, Vismor said, with investment properties accounting for 17 violations during the first months of enforcement. Vismor said the County will hold a public meeting this month to inform property owners of what they’ll need to do to keep their properties up to code as the department prepares to shift its focus to a new area, just outside of the Town of Ridgeway.

“We want to make sure that folks who have rental properties are invited to that meeting,” Council Chairman David Ferguson said. “In South Winnsboro, there’s a lot of that rental stuff – some of them in the houses aren’t taking care of them, but some of them, the houses aren’t being taken care of either. We want to make sure those folks are invited to that meeting and told what the expectations are. When you start looking down that list and you see investment properties and rental properties and that kind of stuff, they need to clean their act up. If they rent to folks, they need to do what they need to do.”

Vismor said that prior to the adoption of the tighter codes and the addition of enforcement officers, the County operated solely on a complaint basis. Now, officers are on patrol in targeted neighborhoods, armed with a revised checklist to simplify their search for violations. Officers are certified to issue citations — $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second, $100 for a third. A fourth offense will put the offender into the court system. Ferguson said in many cases it has been found to be cheaper and more expedient for the County to provide a dumpster to properties, allow the homeowner or resident to fill it up, then haul it away.

“The code enforcement group has done a wonderful job,” Ferguson said. “You see the things that they’re cleaning up, but that’s just scratching the surface over our whole county. There are a lot of things that have been abused and misused and left to make this county look like nobody cares about it.”

Dwayne Perry, Vice Chairman, said the State Department of Commerce told Council that the appearance of a county plays a significant role in economic development.

“You never know sometimes, but when perspective companies are looking to move to your county, one of the things they do is ride around and look at the county and abandoned homes and see how much pride potential prospective employees take in their county,” Perry said, “because it comes through in your work as well. It means a lot that we are following through with getting this county cleaned up and showing that we take pride in this county.”

LaShonda Holmes, one of the County’s code enforcement officers, said Monday night that many of the County’s repeat offenders are located along Columbia Road, an area of particular interest to Ferguson.

“Columbia Road was one of my pet peeves,” Ferguson said. “That’s the main thoroughfare into the county. You go by and look at that, it certainly doesn’t give us a good picture. They need to pay if they don’t play.”