Sherman is planning to devote more resources to cleaning up the city as part of its planned 2017-2018 fiscal year budget.
City Manager Robby Hefton told the Sherman City Council during its budget workshop last month of the additional resources being devoted to improving the city after council members expressed that should be a continued priority.
“One of the initiatives that you guys brought up was making sure we keep the focus on cleaning up the city,” Hefton said to the council. “So just as a way of reminding, there are no fewer than five different departments that are involved in this process. I know it seems a little bit cumbersome at times maybe to get some things done, but it’s just the division of labor here as it relates to this is pretty wide.”
Hefton then explained the city’s code enforcement department handles permits, enforces Sherman’s building code and evaluates substandard structures. He said the community services department also evaluates substandard structures and handles abatement of those buildings. The new fiscal year will likely see both of those departments busy, as the budget workshop presentation said the city is planning to increase its budget for its substandard structure program.
The city’s Stormwater Program, which was discussed during the budget workshop and will be considered for implementation as part of the budget during the council’s July 17 meeting, would also have the ability to help remove substandard and derelict structures in the city.
Among the other departments mentioned as part of Sherman’s initiative to continue cleaning up the city was the environmental code department, Sherman Police Department and the city’s legal department. The environmental code department looks out for properties with high grass, trash, junk or debris and also handles nuisance abatement. The Sherman Police Department is responsible for taking care of junk vehicles and the city’s legal department handles fines and the judicial side of keeping the city clean.
“There is quite the plethora of departments that deal with that, but the good news is through the 2017-2018 budget we’ve added more resources to make this an even higher priority,” Hefton said and explained the city added a new staff member to the environmental code department earlier this fiscal year. “We were at two employees, and now we’re at three and one of those employees has a mixed bag of duties. That helps with our stormwater management compliance — so we kind of have two and a half employees, which is up from one and a half a year ago.”
Among the resources being dedicated for continuing to clean up the city in the new fiscal year is a plan for additional availability of police department officers.
“We’ve talked about efficiencies in the PD, just as we do things to help free up time of our officers and use the appropriate level of personnel for these types of things,” Hefton said. “I do believe we’ll have some more room in the PD availability for things like this.”
Hefton said the department could use new public safety assistants for many things currently being handled by officers, which would free up time for patrol of junk cars. That prompted council member Charles H. Brown Sr. to ask about the details of the process of getting a junk car moved. Police Chief Zachary Flores said it is a lengthy process that involves sending a number of notices.
“We can’t just pull a wrecker up,” Hefton said. “Whether it’s a property owner or a car on the side of the road, you’ve got to give notice and allow them time to respond and then give another notice and give them time to respond.”
Brown told the city manager and police chief of a car he’s seen sitting on the side of the street with a flat tire for a year and a half, saying Flores must know the one he was speaking of.
“I bet you I find it,” Flores said, which got a laugh from the room.
Hefton acknowledged there’s no lack of abandoned junk vehicles for the city to look at around town, which is part of the reason Sherman is allocating more resources to those departments to continue cleaning up the city.
“I know it’s been a long time coming and we’re not going to solve it overnight,” Hefton said of improving the city’s appearance. “But we’re taking a phased approach to increased resources and staffing additional dollars for efficiencies that will free up other areas for us to do more in cleaning up the city.”