WILMINGTON — Treating every citizen fairly through communication and with a twist of community effort.
Annen Vance has been the Administrative Assistant for the Code Enforcement Department for less than a year. Previously she served as an administrative assistant to Mayor John Stanforth’s office until Stanforth offered her this new position.
“I had been actually helping out part-time with the clerical duties for (the code enforcement department),” said Vance. “It was something that I already had the knowledge of how to do it … from the administrative side of things.”
Before taking the job, this position was a part-time contracted one, then it became a part-time city employee position.
Vance spends the first part of her day helping out in the Safety/Service department at the City Building on South Street. Later she’ll get into a city vehicle and check on open violation cases, reported violations, and anything else in her jurisdiction.
Many of the cases she gets are based on complaints made directly to their office.
Her duties include checking for litter and trash, junk cars and RVs, abandoned shopping carts, structural issues (roofing, windows, siding and general disrepair), damaged or uneven sidewalks, vacant unsecured properties, tall grass (exceeding 10 inches March through October), overgrown trees and shrubs on sidewalks, roads and such, and broken sidewalks.
As the News Journal rode along with her during her morning drive, she advised that with many of the people who have the violations, the situation is out of the their hands.
“It’s not that they’re trying to be trashy or trying to trash their house. It’s just that sometimes they’ve got issues they’re trying to deal with,” she said.
A lot of houses that have issues are usually abandoned ones, and not a lot can be done about it, said Vance.
Other times it could be that the person simply didn’t know what they did was a violation or issue.
She doesn’t think people sit down and make a checklist of code violations to make.
“I honestly think people just don’t know. So, you don’t want to come down hard on them when it’s something that they had no idea about,” she said.
One example she gave while on patrol was trash cans left out 24 hours past their pickup date. Instead of citing the owner, Vance puts a small warning tag on the cans to let the owners know of the situation.
“It’s just letting them know this is not safe for the trash cans, not safe for the street sweeper, and we don’t want a bunch of blowing litter,” she said.
Litter violations are one of the more common issues that Vance sees and gets complaints about.
A lot of the time, the residents associated with it didn’t know it was a violation. Vance indicated that what may be unsightly to the general public might not be a big deal to the resident, or they may believe they can do as they please on their property.
Many times, she said, the people in violation will be someone with a disability or an elderly resident who can’t complete the task.
“Communication is key. Because if they’re communicating with me, then I know it’s out of their control or they’re unable to do it now, or they need help,” she said.
That’s when she reaches out to other agencies who might be able to help. These include Council on Aging and Adult Protective Services. One group that has been beneficial in helping is Sugartree Landscaping, which Vance will give a call to assist in a lawn needing to be mowed or trimmed.
The one thing Vance is always hopeful for with her job is open communication.
“Hopefully once people know about a violation, they’ll use that knowledge to correct it,” she said. “I’m not your enemy. I just want to help you and if you don’t understand, I want you to understand and what we can do to fix them. Because once they’re fixed, I won’t bother you anymore.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574