PORTERDALE -- Police Chief Geoff Jacobs is looking for a little help from area individuals and agencies to improve the quality of life in the historic mill village.
Jacobs said last week that the Police Department has been tasked with enforcing the city's housing code after the part-time code enforcement officer position was eliminated in the 2011 budget. While it's a big undertaking for a small police force, Jacobs said the officers "have seemed to embrace it."
Jacobs is calling the effort a Quality of Life Community Improvement Program because it focuses on the enforcement of city ordinances related to quality of life, such as "accumulation of junk, inoperative/abandoned vehicles, homes that are in disrepair and/or in need of paint, uncut grass" and other issues.
Jacobs said the department is first focusing on the external appearance of properties in Porterdale. Officers work in zones to identify properties that are in violation of city ordinances either for accumulation of junk, tires or furniture in yards and on porches or for abandoned or junked vehicles in yards.
A letter is then sent to the owner of the property, setting a deadline for compliance. Jacobs said that since 90 percent of residences in Porterdale are rentals, the property owner sometimes comes back on the tenant for correction of the problem.
Whatever the case, Jacobs said he's more interested in getting the desired result than in heavy-handed enforcement. Jacobs said that as the officers began identifying problem properties, it became apparent that residents -- many of whom are elderly -- did not have the financial or physical wherewithal to correct the problems.
"I'm trying to enlist nonprofit organizations and churches to get on a list that I can circulate to these people who are being warned on these issues to facilitate a connection between the people who need help and the people who want to help," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said he has already sent letters to several organizations and is looking for volunteers who can paint, haul junk or do carpentry work for little or no financial compensation.
Once properties are brought into compliance, Jacobs said he plans to send thank-you letters to tenants and landlords to let them know their efforts are appreciated.
"I think this is a great little community, and it's a shame to let it deteriorate," Jacobs said. "It's worth saving."
Anyone interested in helping out with Porterdale's Quality of Life Community Improvement Program should call Jacobs at 770-786-2226 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.