Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1097140

Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 23, 2014

Housing Committee forms

By David Hotle | Dec 31, 2013

On Monday evening, 10 members of the newly formed Neighborhood Pride Enhancement Committee decided that the Washington spring cleanup would be the committee’s first big event.
During the meeting, the new members brainstormed ideas to promote using the cleanup as a kickoff to a cleaner Washington. Mayor Sandra Johnson described several initiatives the city was taking to improve on the annual cleanup around the square organized by Joe McConnell and Craig Davis. She said the city was going to begin a “streetscape scrape” in which volunteers scrape up gum and other debris from the sidewalks around the square. She also said there would be a program in which the fire department would use its pumper truck to clean up areas around the square.  Several ideas were discussed for the spring cleanup but no decision was made. The date for the cleanup hasn’t been set yet. There was discussion about setting the date to coincide with Earth Day, April 14.
“I think it is important to recognize that housing initiatives are the bedrock of so much of what we are going to do to move forward in our community,” Johnson said. “There are so many things we can do to improve the quality of life for our residents and, as everyone pulls together, I think we can make a very good future for us.”
The former Washington Housing Improvement Task Force, which made a presentation with several suggestions on how to improve housing stock, landlord responsibility, pride promotion, and nuisance abatement, had recommended the formation of a standing committee. Last month the Washington City Council approved the formation of the committee. Most of the volunteers present had served on the task force.
Johnson said the tasks of the committee would be to organize public campaigns, assist with neighborhood organizations, develop marketing materials, assist identifying grants, and make recommendations to the city council. No committee chair was elected at the meeting.
“The city council recognizes the importance of funding in completing these projects,” Johnson said. “We will review annually during our budget process potential projects that are identified and proposed by the committee.”
Volunteer Suzanne Ackermann said that she would begin designing a handout for people in both English and Spanish describing the city’s requirements.  
“People don’t always know what they are supposed to do,” former task force chair Karen Gorham said.
Gorham also said that the task force had already studied the issue and made recommendations. She said that many of the recommendations are “slowly it seems” being worked on.
During discussion, many of the volunteers discussed apparent lack of response from the city when a nuisance is reported. Several members talked about possibilities for funding another ordinance enforcement employee. They also discussed the time it was taking for the city council to implement many of the recommendations of the task force.
“People get discouraged, and I’m one of those,” volunteer Susan See, said. “I think it is easy to talk about things for months and months, then nothing happens. I’m not nearly as optimistic as I was, but I haven’t given up.”
City administrator Brent Hinson said that there are several issues on nuisance abatement that the city will be discussing with incoming city attorney Kevin Olson.
“We are very confident that we are going to get good guidance on how best to approach some of these things,” Hinson said. “We are not going to be able to come up with every answer for you overnight.”
He said one possibility the city is considering when rental property inspections are conducted is using fire department personnel.
City council member Bob Shellmyer recommended people with input come to city council meetings and report them during public comment time. He said the people should also attend the next meeting to ensure the input was followed up on.
Another organizational meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 in the Washington Public Library.

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