Neighbors call code enforcement practices "targeting" new director moving to service approach
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The new code enforcement director said at a town hall on Tuesday she’d like the department to move forward with a service-oriented approach.
Several audience members said they acknowledged with the past director there was unfair targeting. Tyria Bailey, the owner of the Kickback Bar and Grill, said she believes she was targeted by code enforcement.
“There’s a lot of other fees you have to pay in order to have a business,” she said. “And then you have someone coming along fining you for something that may or may not be yours.”
Bailey called the close to $2,000 in fines she paid to the city for trash found on the street near her restaurant “illegal.” At Tuesday’s meeting, South Bend Common Councilwoman Regina Williams Preston shared the transcript of a recorded conversation between herself and past director Randy Wilkerson.
Williams Preston said she believes Wilkerson would subjectively fine homeowners and businesses.
“If we’re subjectively, cause to me that was subjective,” she said. “Using the law to target certain people, who gets to make that decision?”
Tracy Skibins, the city’s new director of code enforcement, said she could not speak to policies and procedures that were put in place before her.
“All I can say is moving forward again, we are trying to be a more service-oriented type of department,” she said. “But we are a small department and we really count on everyone working together.”
Skibins said she will be offering more resources to people whose properties violate code ordinances because the owners say they cannot afford improvement costs. In the eight months since she’s moved into her new position, Skibins said the department has hosted 10 neighborhood cleanups and partnered with Rebuilding Together, the DTSB Homeless liaison, and APS/CPS.
“We count on strong neighborhood organizations and residents working with code enforcement,” she said. “Offering a hand to help out those people who are in need.”
In the recently approved 2019 city budget, Skibins said the department was approved to receive a chief inspector to oversee inspectors out in the field.