Christiansburg inspectors hand out help, not fines

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 10:46 PM EDT
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -Code enforcement officers have been busy in Christansburg, but instead of handing out fines, they’re lending a helping hand to homeowners in violation of the rules.

Buzzing away overgrown brush and tossing away unwanted debris on Mahone St., officials are using their volunteer time to make a difference.

“With COVID and so many other things going on, people have it pretty tough and it feels good to actually be a servant,” said Neighborhood Services Coordinator Patrick Saunders. “I look at my position as a helper for our citizens.”

The town launched the Neighborhood Services Division in March, or code enforcement, for homes that need a little TLC.

“They don’t want their house to be the way it is, but circumstances have put them in that position,” said Building Official Jerry Heinline. “There’s a reason that they’re in violation and it’s normally not because they want it to be. If we go to court and a judge issues a summons or a fine, what good is that? We’re still in the same position.”

Heinline said they’ve found people are sick, elderly or have financial issues burdening them. They get about 10 reports of properties in violation each month, but this group has yet to send out any fines.

Christiansburg’s code enforcement wants to change the public’s perception of it by helping people instead of penalizing them.

“We go to extreme measures to get voluntary compliance we shy away from that,” Heinline said. “Building inspectors and code enforcement people aren’t bad, but they do deliver a lot of bad news.”

Instead, the team used volunteer time to give back to the community they love so much.

“We’re proud of our town, we love our town and if we can make our town look nice that’s what we want to do,” Heinline said. “We’re going to see if we can help them and get people back on their feet or just put a smile on their face.”

This is the first time they have gone out to do something like this and fixed three homes in the last two days.

Going forward, there will be a more formalized process to have people apply for, but the town is hopeful to partner with local community groups and college students to clean the community up twice a year coordinated with fall and spring cleanup programs.

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