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Making Athens beautiful, one step at a time

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Several community entities are uniting to make Athens even more beautiful by getting trash cans out of view and cleaning up area parks.

After concerns were raised about the West State Street Park and Southside Park not being as well maintained as other well-used recreation spots in the city, a levy has been put on the November ballot to raise the city income tax by 0.1 percent.

If passed, the levy would go toward helping the city’s Arts, Parks and Recreation Department clean up the parks and build a new swimming pool at the Athens Community Center.

As brought up at an Athens City Council meeting in June, the City wants to stretch these funds as much as they can to make the city look the best it can. According to City Council, both parks have poorly maintained restrooms, excessive graffiti and out-dated playground equipment.

“It is important we get these places cleaned up because it’s a public service benefit,” said Third Ward Rep. Michele Papai. “And when our bathrooms look the way they do, what does that say about our city?”

Conversation turned back to this idea of the beautification of Athens at Monday night’s City Council meeting with more than an hour discussion about stricter enforcement of the Rubbish and Refuse Nuisance Ordinance.

According to At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson and Fourth Ward Rep. Chris Fahl, part of the Athens City code needs to change. Some language changes in the current ordinance about sanitation requirements and citation amounts will be put up for first reading at the City Council meeting next week.

The current code reads, “All exterior property areas and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition, free of any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.”

The change would add, “Including broken trash bags, loose garbage, overflowing containers or an accumulation of excessive waste in a trash storage area.”

According to Patterson, this will allow for more clarity about what is being described.

The citations section of this ordinance has not been changed or amended since 2008. Currently, there is only a $20 fine for a property’s failure to store its trash in the designated location, which some city officials compared the current fine to the lack of seriousness of a parking ticket and what they cite as the reason for the change.

The new section change would increase from $20 on the first offense to $50. A second offence would be $75, a third would be $100, the fourth would be $125 and the fifth offense would be $150. This is a change from $60, $80 and $100, according to Patterson.

This is not the first time City Council has discussed this issue. With events like Athens Beautification Day and groups like TAG (Targeting Area Graffiti), Athens residents and community members have made an effort to keep the city beautiful. Community members were allowed to speak at the meeting on the importance of keeping the city clean as well.

“We have this great facade in Athens. So when you walk out of this facade into the neighborhoods, you also have something really beautiful to look at,” said Joan Kraynanski a member of the Westside Community Association in Athens.

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