No city official will argue that something needs to be done to address the blight issue in Tracy. However, the City might have to adopt a new system to better take care of the persistent problem spots that beget conversations that continue to take up their time.
At last week’s Tracy City Council meeting, City Administrator Erik Hansen said the current process of addressing multiple problem areas in town should be updated to better take care of the overall problem.
“We probably need a better system for tracking these kind of things,” Hansen told council members. “We’ve got different spreadsheets laying all over the place.”
Currently, there are three different reports on blight coming into the City: one from Tracy Director of Community Development Jeff Carpenter, one from Tracy Public Works Director Shane Daniels for structural concerns, and one from Tracy Police Chief Jason Lichty for nuisance issues.
Hansen said the City’s new Casselle software has a module option for code enforcement, which would cost about $1,000 to set up, plus $1,000 per year to maintain. He thinks it would be worth spending the money on so all reports would go into one system, thereby streamlining the process of eliminating blighted areas in town.
“Maybe Jason has a nuisance issue, and Shane has a building issue — right now, we don’t know that,” Hansen said. “If you do it based on property, then we would know, and then we can start to run reports for you (the council) to see the activity in a particular area.”
Hansen said a revamped system could better track red flag spots in town. He said changes won’t take place this year, but he wants to bring to the council a pilot program of sorts from this summer so the City can offer a different approach to dealing with an issue that won’t go away. He added that consolidating the operation could go a long way to improving the City’s efforts of eliminating blight and beautifying the town.
“We’ll see where that goes,” Hansen said. “What we have now is multiple people doing multiple things and not coordinating their activities.”
Daniels said last week he had some 200 addresses on a list for structural code enforcement.
The council agreed that it would be more simple to accept one report that listed just the properties and their issues, instead of multiple reports.
“I think it’s an excellent idea to consolidate by property so we can keep track of things,” council member Seth Schmidt said.
In a related note concerning city beautification, Hansen said it would make sense for the City to look into reinstating a community parks board to get residents more involved in the overall aesthetics of the town.
“I think the more we can get community members involved, the better off we are,” said council member Jeri Schons. “I think one thing we, as a council, want to build is communication. We have to make sure we’re communicating and double-communicating, so there’s not those misunderstandings.”
Schmidt agreed: “I think a citizens’ park board would encourage the public to take ownership of the parks in their neighborhood and take more pride in them. It would be a way to get community input on things that we’re doing or could be doing with the parks.”
Two examples given of where input from residents could play a factor were in Central Park, where the skating pond and the old tennis courts rarely get used.
“People’s recreational needs change over time,” Hansen said. “In the ‘70s when the tennis courts were built, tennis was more popular — today, not so much. There’s other sports courts that people might like to have instead. Maybe we ought to be doing something different.”
Schons suggested the board would be on a volunteer basis that would bring suggestions to the council.