published Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Bradley County refines environmental officer's powers

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County's environmental officer, who is responsible for enforcing laws on hazards to the health, safety and general welfare of residents and natural resources, has been "given some teeth," according to county commissioners.

The commission recently passed a pair of resolutions that better define the authority of the officer in relation to dilapidated properties, overgrown vegetation and the disposal of garbage, litter, refuse and rubbish.

The resolutions keep in line with current state codes on environmental health and safety hazards, Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg said. However, they are more specific, refining what the environmental officer can address and making the process more efficient.

"In my interpretation of it, it gives [the environmental officer] a little more discretion," Freiberg said.

"If it's basically a health and safety issue for the community, then that's when it becomes a violation of this resolution," said Joe Renner, Bradley County's environmental officer.

Commissioners expressed some reservations about the resolutions and made a couple of amendments before passing them.

A resolution dealing with regulation of overgrown vegetation was changed to note that it was not intended to hinder normal agricultural activities after a request made by Commissioner Mel Griffith.

Commissioners also removed a section of the resolution pertaining to garbage and litter control, which presumed that litter bearing "the name of a natural person" found outside a proper disposal site would be considered a violation committed by that person.

Commissioner Adam Lowe cited an example of how a waste disposal vehicle might accidentally lose someone's personal garbage on a road and cause that person to be held accountable.

Renner said the removed section was intended to address illegal dumping and similar situations.

The Bradley County Commission also requested changes be made in assessment of property tax on private roads. Now, tax assessments and notifications are sent to only one property owner that a private road serves, even though it may serve multiple adjoining property owners.

The request calls for the property assessor to divide equally private road taxation among all adjoining property owners and seeks recommendations from the Bradley County Planning Commission and the Road Committee.

The request also allows the county attorney to petition the Chancery Court to waive penalties, interest and fees on private roads in situations in which property owners have requested relief because of lack of individual notification.

Now, if tax payment on a private road turns delinquent, unpaid tax notices will be sent to all property owners who have an interest in the road, Freiberg said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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