Tampa looks to fix code enforcement problem

08/02/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The city of Tampa has lost $66-million in code enforcement fines over the past decade. A report by the city’s Code Enforcement Department produced that startling number earlier this week.

Broken down, those figures includes $22-million in fines of homestead properties, and $43-million in fines for commercial and other properties.

But City Attorney David Smith said the Constitution forbids foreclosure on homesteaded properties, so he called that $22-million dollar figure irrelevant.

The St. Petersburg Times reported this week that Hillsborough County has more than $51-million in outstanding fines.

Smith explained away some of the other liens as being old and uncollectible. But he said the city needs a better system of collecting data.

The Code Enforcement Department will now review the list properties in the $43-million category, deleting companies that should be excluded, and also halting fines of $100 a day on depreciated properties, which he says will make the owed fees more accurate.

The city of Tampa has a sliding scale of liens, Smith added. And he says that’s causing people to pay their liens.

City Councilman Joseph Caetano said Tampa needs to find a way to better identify the outstanding debtors.

City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena asked if there was anyway the city could publicly embarrass chonic code violators?

Smith said he thought the city was limited in that respect.

A member of the public, Pete Johnson said he supported Mayor Pam Iorio’s efforts to clean up code enforcement problems in Tampa, but says they’re simply out of control.

The Council voted to get an update every 90 days on progress collecting fines, and staff will research a database system that might help as well.

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