Program removes inoperable vehicles

A new city program identifying and removing inoperable vehicles from public and private property has resulted in 84 vehicles being towed since September.

Of the 84 vehicles that have been removed, 25 of those have been on public property, while the remaining were on private property, said Fred Barnett, the city’s code enforcement officer.

Columbus city councilmen approved changes to a city ordinance Sept. 5 allowing Barnett to investigate complaints about abandoned vehicles on private property and to issue fines.

In October, the city announced an inoperable vehicle abatement program which allows residents to have their vehicle towed at no charge while still receiving the full value from the metal of the scrapped vehicle.

Under the program, the city will cover the $65 cost of towing a vehicle when an individual presents proof of ownership, a clear title and signs a waiver.

Barnett said there are more than 300 abandoned vehicles at approximately 150 locations around the city.

Penalties for violating the ordinance call for a fine of up to $250 fine per vehicle for the first violation, with penalties gradually increasing with more violations. People who are cited have the opportunity to appeal the fine before the city’s Board of Works, according to the ordinance.

One property owner was issued a $1,000 fine two weeks ago after failing to comply with several orders to have four vehicles removed from private property, Barnett said.

“If they don’t pay the fine within 30 days, a lien is put on the property for that amount,” Barnett said.

The city could also pursue legal action to have the four vehicles removed, Barnett said.

Abandoned vehicles on private property hurts property values of nearby homes and also is considered to be a safety hazard and public nuisance, Barnett added.

Barnett has identified 42 inoperable vehicles on private property since the ordinance change, and 36 of those vehicle owners are now in compliance, he said. The remaining six property owners were been issued 10-day orders under the second stage of the process after being initially issued 30-day notices to comply with the city’s rules, Barnett said.

The city has tagged 25 vehicles on public property, towing eight of them so far after a 72-hour waiting period, Barnett said.

About the ordinance

Changes to an ordinance passed by city leaders in September gave city code enforcement officer Fred Barnett the authority to investigate complaints of abandoned vehicles on private property and to issue fines.

Penalties for violating the ordinance call for a fine up to $250 per vehicle for the first violation, with penalties gradually increasing with more violations. People who are cited have the opportunity to appeal the fine before the city’s Board of Works, according to the ordinance.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com