Housing Heros Story Series 3 of 4 | Kimball
After learning about the role of code enforcement officers at a RuralX breakout session in 2016, Anita Holan decided to pursue the idea in her own community of Kimball, where she serves as the Economic Development Director.
“The more attractive a town is, the easier it is to recruit and retain businesses,” she explains. “Quality housing is important to the vitality of a community, and therefore becomes important to my job in economic development.”
While at RuralX, Anita heard about Mike Olsen, a code enforcement officer contracted in several rural communities around the area. She talked with Mike about the needs in Kimball, and a few months later, he presented his information to the City Council. In August 2017, he was officially hired.
The first step in the code enforcement process involved having Mike assess all the properties within the Kimball city limits and writing up a list of homeowners in violation of various city codes.
“That first list involved around 147 junk cars and 22 homes that weren’t up to code, “ she says.
A letter went out to the identified homeowners, explaining the violations and asking them to take care of the problems. Most of the feedback has been positive, with an impressive rate of compliance with the people in the community. In fact, many people have taken the initiative to clean up their properties even without a violation letter. There were a few unhappy residents who challenged the letter, but the City of Kimball tried to work with people as much as possible.
“Most of the negative feedback centered around people who didn’t think it was fair, who couldn’t afford to fix the problem or who said the violation had been that way for decades,” she explains. “We did our best to explain the reasoning behind the rules. In many cases, the fix was easy—a little paint, a license or a trip to the dump.”
With the help of Mike, city law enforcement and the city council, many of the problems have been corrected or are being worked on, including the demolition of three dilapidated properties.
“I have had neighboring communities comment on how much better Kimball looks,” she says. “They notice we are cleaning things up.”
The plan for the future is for the city law enforcement officer to handle code enforcement issues as they occur.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” says Anita. “As soon as we get things where they need to be, our local police officer should be able to just handle a few situations at a time. In the end, we all benefit.”