JASPER, Tenn. -- City leaders are encouraging private property owners to clean up their unsightly real estate so Jasper doesn't have to take legal action against them to get that done.
The city has notified residents who have been identified as having trash, tall grass or other unattractive property problems in recent months, but that effort has met with limited success.
Mayor Paul Evans said he wants those people to consider how those issues affect their neighbors.
He said some yards in town have so much trash and high grass that rodents are appearing much more frequently there.
That has an effect on nearby property values, but it also could affect the health and well-being of neighbors, Evans said.
"Most of the time, the outside gives you some type of idea of the way the inside looks," Police Chief Tim Graham said.
If property owners need help cleaning up, Evans said, there are local organizations that are willing to assist.
"I've talked to the Boy Scouts, and they're willing to help," he said. "Church youth groups are willing to help people if they can't do it. We're here to help them. We're not trying to put a burden on anybody."
Alderman Steve Looney said the city has the "discretion to take action" on property cleanup.
"We don't have to sit here and let these junky places exist," he said.
Municipalities have the right to go onto private property and perform any necessary cleanup, officials said.
City Attorney Mark Raines said Jasper would have to get a judgment against the property owner and then place a lien against the property to cover the costs associated with the cleanup.
"We don't want to do that," Evans said. "We want them to do it. I'll put them in touch with somebody that's willing to help them if they give me a call."
The city's cleanup request is "not a deal where a homeowner has to keep his property immaculate," Looney said. "Keep the yard mowed and just take care of your property."
"We're trying to help everyone in the neighborhood," Evans said. "I just hope that people will do it so we don't have to take [legal] action to have it done."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.