Etheridge combs Madison for code violationsBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Each day, the city of Madison’s code enforcement officer Miriam Etheridge rides the streets of the city and takes notes.
Etheridge, who began working in this capacity in December 2018, is looking for violations to the International Property Management Code, which the city recently adopted.
The code, which Etheridge said is part of the International Building Code, has been adopted by cities across the country and is a guideline for property maintenance.
Etheridge was hired by Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler to take on code enforcement, as city growth has led to the need for an environmental court, which began in January.
The environmental court has replaced public hearings to manage complaints from the growing number of residents in the city.
The court meets twice a month, with Judge John Reeves presiding over the cases.
“When I see property that I feel like is bringing down the neighborhood, I send them a letter,” Etheridge said.
She considers the amount of time needed to fix the issue and sets a timeline for completion, which is unique to each case. Code violations could be anything from a house with peeling paint to parking on the street illegally.
If the property is not up to code within the time limit given, those residents could end up in environmental court and face hefty fines.
Etheridge said she works with residents to lengthen the time to address the code violation if needed.
“I’ll give an extension, and I’ll work with you, but please pick up the phone and call when you get the letter,” she said.
After the first letter, residents with a code violation will then receive a certified letter. If they do not address the violation then, they will be issued a citation, which brings them to environmental court.
At court, residents could face fines for their code violations.
“Why wouldn’t you want to put that money on your property instead of giving it to the city of Madison?” Etheridge said. “I ask people when they call me and they’re upset (about getting a letter), I ask, ‘Why are you living in Madison?’ We’re an upscale neighborhood.”
“I say, what if every property in your neighborhood looked like yours, what would your neighborhood look like?” she added. “By going this route, we’re going to keep property values high.”
The city also takes residents’ complaints, in addition to violations Etheridge finds while she is out.
However, she does not send out letters until she has visited the property to check it out first.
Residents may visit the city website or call city hall for questions about the environmental court or to submit a complaint.
A complete copy of the International Property Management Code is also on the city’s website.