Denison is set to increase fees for code violations as part of the new voluntary rental registration and inspection program which will begin May 1.

The Denison City Council approved a new incremental fee structure for repeat offenders of the city’s code enforcement. In a separate measure the council also authorized the hiring of a second code enforcement officer to help implement he new program once it goes into effect. The fines start at $150-200 then go up to the $300-450 range for second violation with repeat violations climbing up to $2,000.

Denison Director of Development and Community Services Kimberly Murray said the stakeholders group recommended the escalating penalties for code violations as a part of the program.

“The main goal of code compliance is the reduction of violations and to promote safety and attractiveness of our community,” Murray said. “Our officers review thousands of code violations annually. Some property owners pay fees without bringing their violations of their properties into compliance multiple times. These escalating penalties should discourage repeat violators that resort to simply paying a citation over and over again.”

Murray said penalties would increase for repeat violations up to a maximum before resetting at the start of the next calendar year.

The city first proposed the rental inspection program last summer at its budget retreat. In June 2019 the city held a town hall to receive feedback from the citizens of Denison. In a packed house residents overwhelmingly pushed back against the proposal at the time citing a number of issues including the burden it placed on property owners.

After the meeting the city organized a stakeholders group that included a number of those property owners. The revised plan changed it from a mandatory program to voluntary with incentives. However, the issue remained of how to bring property’s up to code.

Murray said with these incremental fee increases for repeat violations it would help incentivize property owners to invest in their properties rather than pay a small, standard fee.

“It is important to emphasize it was through the rental registration stakeholder task force this evolved because they felt strongly about it,” Denison Mayor Janet Gott said. “It was through their experience they felt this escalation was prudent to be an actual deterrent.”