WINNSBORO — As the reach of the Fairfield County Code Enforcement office has widened, so has its efforts at informing the public of which ordinances apply to property and the consequences of violations.
Tuesday night in a called public meeting all four of the county’s code enforcement officers were present as was Attorney Dan Bismore, who presented a portion of the legalities surrounding the code.
Bismore explained that the International Property Maintenance Code was the starting point for the county ordinances that address abandoned buildings, dangerous buildings, abandoned manufactured homes, abandoned or junk vehicles, public nuisances, upkeep of public lots and litter control.
If a piece of property is found to be non-complaint in one of the aforementioned areas, the owner is given a courtesy notification about the violation. Then, if the violation is not corrected within the required time frame, a citation is issued. Every day a property is cited counts as another instance of a violation.
The county has doubled its code enforcement staff in the last two years.
The goal is to have all the red pegs on the map change to green, for compliance. Then the office would monitor for compliance. Bismore said the past few months were a targeted effort toward South Winnsboro and now efforts are extending closer to Ridgeway.
With 70 square miles of county to enforce and just four officers, it might take a while for them to get to certain areas, but they are using a systematic approach to enforce the code. If a citizen complains about a particular property, the officers will respond and then do a sweep of that entire street to see if other property is in violation.
Otherwise, the county continues its approach of going area by area until the entire county has been covered.
“Levying a fine is our last option,” said Lashonda Holmes, Fairfield County Code Enforcement Officer. “If you don’t comply that is because it is your choice the majority of the time.”
The fines can add up quickly in cases of noncompliance. If a property owner is found guilty in court a fine of no more than $200 per instance of violation can be handed out. Each day of violation is another offense. For abandoned buildings and homes, the fine is up to $500 per day or imprisonment for no more than 30 days.
Holmes acknowledged that there could come a time when requirements for property improvement would be beyond the means of some impoverished property owners living in the home. The county is compiling a list of groups and agencies that it would supply to individuals in that situation in hopes that those agencies and groups would be of assistance.
“There is a compassionate component (to our code enforcement),” Holmes said.
In certain instances, the County provides a dumpster on the property if the owners agree to clear off, for instance, a burned out shell of a mobile home. Owners are given a two week window to clear off the property before the dumpster is removed.
The code enforcement process also has an appeals process. Appeals cost $150 up front in fees and there is no guarantee that an appeal will be ruled in a property owner’s favor.
The code enforcement covers the unincorporated area of the county. However other areas may be soon joining in these efforts to beautify and market Fairfield County. County Council Chairman David Ferguson said that Ridgeway Town Council is considering adopting the same code and that eventually the Town of Winnsboro will react to this code as well.
“This would put the county on the same page and that is why the international code is so important and the reason we adopted it,” Ferguson said.
The goal is to clean up neighborhoods improve public welfare health and safety. With that in mind, another public meeting was held in Ridgeway about the code enforcement so that area would be better informed of the changes taking place to surrounding property as a result.
Ferguson made sure to remind people that the county is not singling out particular people or property owners. He said the county determined its starting places for enforcement by where the work would affect the most people population-wise and by the areas in worst state of violation.
Enforcing codes along the corridor leading to the Peach Road Industrial Park also is a priority so the county can put its best foot forward when courting potential businesses to locate here.
To register a complaint, people must call 803-712-6596. No personal information or even a name is required when leaving a message. Citizens, community groups and agencies all have the right to make complaints. If the complaint is determined to be valid by an enforcement officer, then appropriate steps will be taken.