Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This morning, we welcomed a brief rain shower - something desperately needed to moisten the parched landscape. However, the wetness was enough to raise the oils on the streets to the surface, making driving conditions a bit hazardous. Please keep this in mind while you're out on the roads. Our insurance companies are already overwhelmed with current disasters...let’s not burden them or ourselves with avoidable accidents!
Recently, my office has received solid waste and drug house complaints, as well as vagrant issues in family neighborhoods. Since the proper role of government is to protect its citizens, I want you to be aware of the programs in place to assist in these matters.
Pierce County Responds (PCR) is the county agency that acts as a clearing house to receive and investigate complaints, provide technical assistance to property owners and organize community-based solutions for code enforcement in unincorporated Pierce County. Information for cities can be found on their website as well.
PCR partners with the Planning and Land Services Department, the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the County Sheriff's Department, and the Health Department to assist in resolving issues with whichever agency is responsible for addressing each complaint. Examples of recent complaints are squatters in unsecured and abandoned homes, piles of garbage (some higher than six feet!), scattered drug paraphernalia, abandoned vehicles, occupied tents without permits, and more.
PCR refers about 1,200 new solid waste and sewage violation complaints to the Health Department to investigate each year. At any time, they have between 260 and 400 active cases being worked by four field investigators. They resolve about 60 percent of their cases within 90 days and between 85 and 90 percent within one year. Most of these cases are resolved through active engagement with property owners. Few are resolved through the court system, but the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is very effective and their successes in court has assisted them in negotiating with resistant property owners. While there is cause to have confidence that most issues will be resolved, the time frame to reach success can often take longer to achieve than what is desired.
Some examples of recent cases are:
- Tent cities/squatters - These can be reported to the Pierce County Responds Code Enforcement Program in the Public Works Department. Your complaint will be triaged and referred to the appropriate agency based on the description of the issue. For instance, structural issues - such as when power and water are shut off to a residence that is being occupied - or if a house is abandoned and unsecured points of entry are in violation of the Property Maintenance Code (PMC) would be assigned to the Planning and Land Service Department’s (PALS) Building Division. PALS can, with proper notice, board up the home for security purposes.
- Reports of garbage, solid waste and drug paraphernalia - These go to the Health Department who is authorized to enforce solid waste regulations. They will address the issues with property owners. Due process requires that the property owner receive notices before recording a Certificate of Non-Compliance on the title. If compliance is not gained, the last step is for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to obtain a court-ordered warrant of abatement, giving the County the authority to enter the property to remove the violations at the owner’s expense. I don’t think I need to remind anyone of how slow the legal process is for finalizing a case.
Recently, I have been traveling the neighborhoods, working with constituents and seeing firsthand the many problems with drugs and abandoned homes that are inhabited by strangers. Rentals, too, can be a problem where the property owner may not be aware of the continuous stream of vehicles, bikes and pedestrians to and from their property at all hours of the day and night, disrupting the neighborhood. To learn more about this, please watch for my recent television interview on Pierce County Talks, expected to air over the Labor Day weekend on PCTV, with a constituent who has been plagued by just such issues.
I hope this brief synopsis of Pierce County Responds has been helpful for you to gain an understanding of this agency and its mission. In keeping with the need to be a civilized society, remember that it is the purpose of government to protect life, liberty and property. Issues of public safety rise to the top of complaints. To report issues, please go to their website or call 253-798-4636 and leave a detailed message.
Please understand that your government is also under the law and must navigate the issues accordingly. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact my office.
Have a memorable weekend and please pray for our neighbors who are battling the fires in our state and nationwide.