Deena Hallacy, Pittsburg community development specialist, was not surprised by the amount of housing blight and dliapidated buildings in the community.

Deena Hallacy, Pittsburg community development specialist, was not surprised by the amount of housing blight and dliapidated buildings in the community.

So Hallacy performed a couple of test cases, first driving west to east along 4th Street to document the number of houses that are in need of some of the programs and services the city can offer.

The second test case was even more telling, taking a random number of worn-out houses and doing a little research on them. Many, Hallacy discovered, had long been abandoned. Several had not had running water since before a new recordkeeping system was put into place in 1998.

These two test cases gave her more than enough ammunition to begin to put together Operation Clean Sweep, a program to “move forward aggressively to clean up the community using a combined effort with several departments then determine next steps after analyzing data obtained.”

“Operation Clean Sweep came from the commissioners, who were pretty adamant about the need to do something,” Hallacy said. “They wanted a plan of some kind to start a process.”
The Operation Clean Sweep, as discussed at a study session before Tuesday’s city commission meeting, is comprised of three phases.

The first phase would include sending out brochures on many of the city’s programs and services, as well as brochures on Good Neighbor and tenant-landlord responsibilities. This will also include meeting with trash haulers and asking for help from owners of commercial buildings. This phase is primarily an information blitz, and would also include the purchase of software to improve tracking of future nuisances and housing issues.

The second phase would largely gather data on the city’s blighted houses. A list of addresses with inactive water accounts or homes without water meters has already been developed. The second phase would include a sweep of the city by housing and nuisance inspectors, as well as identify owners of dilapidated housing. Also included in this phase would be tagging any properties in need of repair with information on programs available through the city.

Finally, the third phase would send letters to the owners of dilapidated property, informing them of Operation Clean Sweep and asking about the owner’s intentions with the property. Then, the city would offer programs again, including a potential demolition of vacant homes, purchasing the property, buying the home for resale, and other possibilities.

The city commissioners said that the Clean Sweep was an important project that could help the city in another field besides just housing.

“This cleanup has been on the city commission’s agenda for several years now, with the exception of the new commissioners,” said commissioner Patrick O’Bryan. “The state of our city, and the way it looks to people coming to town, has been an issue for a long time. We have been set upon by the major employers in town. They have told us they have a difficulty in bringing people to Pittsburg because of how it looks. I think the project we are working on is a major concern.”

Operation Clean Sweep, as designed, would use no extra city employees. Commissioners said the “soft sell” approach of Operation Clean Sweep was likely the best way to go.

“It’s a pride issue. We want people to have pride in Pittsburg, and we want them to pick up the trash in their yard, regardless of whether it affects businesses or not,” said commissioner Michael Gray. “Maybe with this friendly approach by codes enforcement, we will have the best reaction.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 140.