Safety at the heart of code debate

Just 13 hours after Marietta City Council passed the enforcement portion of the Marietta Property Maintenance Code, a third floor window exploded out of a Second Street building showering the sidewalk, street and alley with glass.

Marietta Adventure Company owner Ryan Smith was driving to his nearby business when the glass rained down Friday morning. Fortunately, Smith had the projection of his truck to shield him from the glass. Within one hour after the glass exploded onto the sidewalk, there were pedestrians walking back and forth through the glass. A grandmother picked up pieces of the glass because she was concerned for people’s safety.

This is at least the second time within a year that glass has dropped from the four-story building at 217 Second St. onto the ground around it.

Last summer, Smith’s employees and clients returning from a kayaking trip walked through glass that had fallen within hours. Again, by chance, no one was hurt.

It appears the glass is being blown out of deteriorated windows because wind roars into the building’s many openings on the backside where there used to be window glass. Now, there is cardboard, chipboard, plywood and fiberboard placed in, but not sealing the window openings. One window on the second floor had an 18-inch opening when the glass fell out Friday.

The Marietta Fire Department responded immediately after receiving a call about the falling glass. The fire inspector worked diligently and unsuccessfully to contact the building owner. Eventually, the owner’s son showed up and swept up some of the hundreds of pieces of glass. Upon close inspection, broken glass still lays on the sidewalk, in the street and alley.

There are three tenants in the building paying $2,460 per month rent – $29,520 per year – to the landlord who I am told is on time every month to collect the rent.

On Friday evening, about 24 hours after council passed the enforcement portion of the Marietta Property Maintenance Code Enforcement, Marietta firefighters responded for the third time to a vacant house at 1001 Gilman Ave. Firefighters are investigating if this indeed was the third arson fire in the abandoned house. Our firefighters risk their lives three separate times for the same abandoned house.

We have glass exploding from third story windows, abandoned houses being repeatedly set alight, and a mayor who is bragging he will veto the property code enforcement passed by council Thursday. The mayor was quoted on WTAP news as having not read the code, but having recommendations for improving it. Not one recommendation has been offered by the administration in the 17 months that council has held many public meetings soliciting input from all city department heads, police, fire, health department, engineering staff, residents, property owners, landlords and residents who live outside the city.

The survival of our beautiful and historic city requires that its citizens are protected by a fair, consistent, efficient, and transparent code enforcement plan.

Marietta City Council passed the Marietta Property Maintenance Code on July 1, 1999, nearly 15 years ago. Council updated the code on Aug. 1, 2013, to the most current 2012 code. That became law Sept. 1, 2013. Marietta has had a property maintenance code for nearly 15 years. It is not new.

What is new is creating enforcement designed to protect residents and visitors alike from unsafe and unhealthy situations which currently allow glass, stone and wood to fall from buildings onto public sidewalks and adjoining buildings.

Without consistent, fair, efficient and transparent property code enforcement, it is just a matter of time before someone or a group of people is seriously injured or killed because some property owners refuse to be responsible or care about the wellbeing of our beautifully historic city and its residents and visitors.

Most of those concerned about the critical necessity for property code enforcement – have not bothered to read the code or offered any suggestions for improving conditions for improving the city’s health and safety.

Who was it that said, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem?”

Roger G. Kalter lives in Marietta. He represents Marietta City Council’s 1st Ward and is chair of Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing.