After eight vehicles were broken into on Christmas night in 2011, Globe’s Nob Hill area residents formed a neighborhood watch group the next month.
The block watch encompasses Oak Street to High Street to Tonto Street and part of Yuma Street, as well as the residential area on Hill Street, said Ginny Sonne, one of its founding members.
There are 20 members, about half of whom attend the group’s monthly meetings, she said.
The neighbors take care of each other, said Sonne, explaining that they will offer to help neighbors who are disabled, elderly or ill and struggling to keep up their yards, etc. “We do things for each other in the neighborhood,” she said.
Sometimes, however, more than neighborly help may be required when a house remains unsightly for months or even years.
Along with watching out for suspicious activities and crimes in progress, these proactive citizens also document and report blighted properties in their neighborhood.
“More than nine houses within one block of me are unoccupied,” said Sonne, pointing out that some claim there isn’t enough available housing in Globe. “We need to do something about the unoccupied properties,” which could be fixed up then rented or sold.
Sonne expressed her frustration about what seems to be a slow process during call to the public at the Dec. 17, 2019 Globe City Council meeting.
“I want to speak to unoccupied, derelict buildings in our neighborhood,” she told the council. “We have many in our neighborhood—too many.”
Sonne went onto say that the day before, she had submitted four complaints to city hall, two of which were previously reported in 2015 and one of them in 2016.
“It is disheartening to see these properties still derelict,” she said. “What is more disheartening is that these properties are in worse condition now.”
Sonne noted that all four of the properties are unoccupied, so “no one would be displaced from their home” if city codes were enforced.
Three of the properties attracted vagrants, prompting phone calls to the Globe Police Department, she added.
“When can we neighbors expect these attractive nuisances to be resolved? And, can we know when these unoccupied, derelict properties are cited, what stage of enforcement they are in and when and how they are resolved?” said Sonne, adding, “After all, we have to live with them in our neighborhood.”
Because Sonne’s comments were made during call to the public, by state law, council members could not respond. However, Globe Mayor Al Gameros asked City Manager Paul Jepson to look into the matter.
Contacted later, Jepson said, “We really cannot comment on open or active code enforcement cases or the status of individual complaints.”
Instead, Code Enforcement Specialist Michelle Yerkovich took time to explain the process once a complaint is received.
In doing her job, Yerkovich can be “either reactive or proactive,” she said.
After Jepson had divided the city into zones, Yerkovich proactively checks zone-by-zone for possible code violations. “In between, someone will call me about an issue somewhere else, so I am reactive” and go check it out, she said.
Once a complaint form is submitted, as Sonne had done, Yerkovich has a turnaround time of about 24 to 48 hours.
First, Yerkovich goes to the site “to see if there really is a code violation,” she said.
For her part, Yerkovich prefers to make contact with the owner, knocking on the door and, if there is no answer, leaving a door hanger with a note asking them to call her.
If a code has indeed been violated and there is no response to the door hanger, Yerkovich takes a photo and sends a letter to the owner, who has about 30 days to fix the problem.
In some cases, the property is a rental, where the landlord may not know the tenant is violating city code. If so, Yerkovich sends letters to both.
If nothing is done, Yerkovich then follows up, sending another letter.
About 10 percent of the letters come back as undeliverable. In that case, Yerkovich has to research to find the owner—perhaps the city’s water department has a valid address she can use, or the court does. Sometimes, she has to search for the owner in another county.
Compliance tools available to Yerkovich include letters as well as civil citations requiring an appearance before the city magistrate and possible civil fines.
Yerkovich gives the example of a property that might have multiple code violations. “Let’s say they had three violations, but fixed two things,” she said. In that case, the process might have to start again if the one problem continues to remain unresolved.
Sometimes, the reported house belonged to a beloved, deceased relative and the owner can’t live in it for some reason but also can’t bear to part with it.
“How does leaving the house like this honor your grandmother?” Yerkovich asks them, after seeing unoccupied homes “deteriorate really quickly.”
Yerkovich recommends families take a photo of the house, then rent it out or put it up for sale.
“In my opinion, they would honor their grandmother more by allowing someone else to live in the house and enjoy it,” she said.
Sometimes, there are dire cases requiring an emergency abatement process, and Yerkovich said she has done a few over the years. Requirements include sending a certified letter, which is also posted on the property and recorded at the county recorder’s office. The owner is given a certain timeframe and has a right of appeal to the city council.
Yerkovich recalls using the emergency process with a “falling down house” by the city dog park as well as a burned-out structure on Hackney Avenue.
In 2019, Yerkovich, who is a one-person department, dealt with 600 cases. If each case requires three site visits to follow up, that adds up to 1,800 site visits, she said.
“If it goes to court, there are more site visits, as well,” and Yerkovich also has to prepare for and attend the initial appearances and court dates, she said.
Sixty percent of the 2019 cases were resolved, leaving 40 percent to follow Yerkovich into the new year and that doesn’t include the new ones that 2020 may have in store.
Yerkovich asks that residents with complaints “give them to me as you see them,” as there have been cases where she has received as many as 60 complaint forms at one time.
“It’s a bit overwhelming to get a huge pile of them all at once,” she said.
A complaint form is available online at www.globeaz.gov or at Globe City Hall, 150 N. Pine St.
Award winning journalist with over 18 years experience in covering local news and issues affecting rural communities. Married 37 years, my life has taken me from Phoenix to Willcox to Globe. My husband and I are both overjoyed to find ourselves in Globe-Miami, with its rich history and sense of community. This is truly home.