A neighbor was concerned about “the overall well-being and safety” of another. She spoke to a city employee. What unfolded was an overwhelming community show of caring.
The neighbor who began this effort is Susan Fogarty. She visited City Hall to see whether the city could help her neighbor who appeared to be in ill health and was living in what she described as “the invisible house” shrouded in trees, bushes and weeds.
Fogarty spoke to the city’s code enforcement officer, Gerianne Hansen, who spoke to the building official, Ron Nybo, who spoke to former Mayor Bob Ferraro and local construction and tradesmen from an informally organized group known as Project Care.
Ferraro spoke to John Chase, a member of the Noon Rotary and Boulder City police sergeant, who talked to his fellow Rotarians, who talked to their friends.
Fogarty had no intention of lodging a code enforcement complaint against her neighbor on Park Street; she simply wanted to see what resources might be available to him.
Since the city’s code enforcement actions are “complaint-driven,” meaning unless a resident files a written complaint about an issue, no one goes out into the community actively looking for violations, Nybo asked Fogarty to list the existing problems at her neighbor’s residence.
Once Fogarty did this, Nybo had a clearer picture of what needed to be done. He and members of the informally organized Project Care group had helped residents with several projects over the years.
This particular cleanup began when Nybo introduced Ferraro to the neighbor’s family. The former mayor became this community effort’s liaison.
During one of his trips to the home, Ferraro changed a door lock and replaced a window.
Before the cleanup took place April 4-7, Dave Hamill of Lake City Air Conditioning visited the home and inspected the air conditioning. He also checked for pests underneath the house. Everything was in order, much to the building inspector’s relief.
Bill Budd of Budd’s Plumbing checked the plumbing. The city found that no water had been used at the house for the past year. The toilet and shower were not working, but there was water to the faucets in kitchen and bathroom. Fogarty believed her neighbor was using the restroom in Bicentennial Park as his water source.
When the cleanup began, Brian Buhl, owner of Boulder Tree Service, and his staff, went to work on cutting down trees that shrouded the neighbor’s property.
Chase called Robert Martello of Boulder City Disposal, and he delivered two 20-yard trash bins and a 40-yard trash bin to dispose of the debris from the area.
Boy Scouts, volunteers from a local church, members of the Boulder City Police Department and business owners from Business Networking International aided in the cleanup, which continued for several days.
“The amount of people that showed up over the weekend was phenomenal,” Nybo said. “Everybody’s pitching in and doing a great job. I think it’s great and everybody feels really good about what’s going on up there.” Ferraro said all the volunteers worked extremely hard and “made hundreds of trips” from the backyard to the front yard and back again.
Chase, who has been involved with a number of community cleanups with his Rotary colleagues, said, “We’re all community servants of Boulder City. We just try to offer some assistance and help … and make it a better place for everybody.”
Not only did the community pitch in to refurbish the outside of this neighbor’s home, Ferguson Plumbing Supply bought a new toilet for the home. Kurt Wallin, a general contractor, and Tom Stewart of TWS Plan Review Service donated $350 for a new prefabricated shower.
Brok Armantrout, Community Development director whose department is responsible for code enforcement actions, said, “We have been far more successful this past year in obtaining voluntary compliance.” Armantrout said the city has investigated “290 code enforcement complaints” since Oct. 1.
“Of those 290, only 15 are currently active, meaning that the violators are either taking corrective action or are working with code enforcement staff to resolve their problems,” he said. “Not one in the past year required a citation.”
Armantrout explained that the “philosophy of code enforcement takes the position that most people do not realize that they are breaking the law and wouldn’t normally violate the law if they are educated on what they can and can’t do.
“Most residents appear to appreciate that approach, and I point to the current compliance status as an example of how our residents are voluntarily complying with the law once they are notified and have it explained to them. The goal of code enforcement isn’t to punish people but to help them understand their responsibilities under city ordinances.”
Code enforcement now devotes eight hours a week to this function and uses the building inspector’s assistance when possible.