Each jurisdiction faces unique challenges, solutions,
by Jason Wright / www.northfulton.com / Appen Newspapers
On Sept. 28, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared the northern half of Georgia to be in Level Four drought conditions – a designation that came with a complete outdoor watering ban.So the designation has been made, but how do you stop it? According to North Fulton cities, it's now a public safety issue.
In Alpharetta, all police and fire personnel are now authorized to issue warnings and citations against watering."Before we just said we'd go along with Fulton County's provisions," said Robbie Rokovitz, Alpharetta's Assistant City Administrator. "The problem is we needed the ability to enforce that, so we adopted an ordinance that establishes the ability for our sworn officers to issue citations."Alpharetta passed the ordinance in late July. Since then, the fire department has created their own water violations.Generally, violators will receive a written warning for the first offense, then a non-criminal citation and $250 fine for the second offense. A third offense results in a $500 fine. Violators can appeal through municipal court.Earlier this month, the city of Roswell approved a water ban violation notice and system to address violations.
The city's system includes allowing code enforcement officers to post notices on violators' properties whether or not the owner is home. A citation would act like a parking ticket and an envelope would be attached so the fine could be mailed in and a court date could be avoided.
City Council heard residents' concerns at its Oct. 1 meeting; residents told council that they have continued to call officials and the police to report violations, but homeowners continue to water their lawn.
Residents also brought up an issue with "reuse water" or "well water" signs and suggested the city investigate further if homeowners are actually using reuse or well water.
According to Stuart Moring, director of Public Works for Roswell, the city will continue to look into other ways to address the system more effectively.
The first violation will be a $100 fine for Roswell residents. The second violation is a $500 fine and subject to the property owner's water service being shut off, Moring said.The new cities are faced with unique situations. Typically, they were operating with Fulton County's drought rules. But not anymore.
In Milton, Community Development Director Tom Wilson said he is in the unique position of being allowed to issued citations by the EPD but not having the means to do so."I'm certainly willing to [enforce the ban], but I've had no instruction from the state on how to do that," he said. "I don't even have to code section in which to do it."Wilson said his staff found out city personnel can not issue citations for a state code, so Milton has to pass its own ordinance, like Alpharetta. One simple solution is to simply copy the state code and add it as an amendment to Milton's ordinance."I was hoping to not [have to add the amendment] until maybe next summer, but when we went into a complete watering ban, I certainly have to consider that," he said.
City Council, which will rush the amendment into its Oct. 18 meeting, will then decide if Milton is the "citation writing and enforcement business," said Wilson.
Johns Creek passed an emergency amendment Oct. 8 that ties the city to the state ban. At the meeting, Mayor Mike Bodker said the city had been getting calls on how to report violations. Under the new law, city staff will forward those complaints to Fulton County.
The decision to defer to the county was in part decided by the fact that Johns Creek has only two code enforcement officers – both CH2M HILL OMI employees – and Fulton County police, which the city can not direct under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement.Mayor Mike Bodker said the move is important, though, for angry callers who want answers now."I think the symbolism is important ... our will be the 'one throat to choke,' so to speak, for our citizens," he said. "City staff can see it through and make sure it gets closed out so that we don't have to give [citizens] the frustration of pushing it back on them."