City responds to audit on its fight against blight

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new audit, just out this week, highlights some major problems with the City of Richmond's fight against blight. Now, the city is responding, by making some major changes that they hope will correct the problems.

The City admits people are sick of seeing buildings that are run down, eye-sores for the community.

Patricia Damian Richardson walks through the streets of the Manchester District everyday and sees some new construction and some old mess. But, it's some old mess that has been cleaned up, But, she says here and in another parts of the city, not enough is being done.

"Oh yeah, it's really nasty," says Richardson.

The city sees the frustration, adding the nearly 50 page audit is thorough, pointing out the good and bad. It shows some properties like throughout the city are not monitored enough, and nearly one in every two files requested from community development could not be found.

Now, the city will work to hold people accountable.

"Our inspectors are concerned with being in the field, talking to people. So, what we need to remind them is the boring paperwork you need to follow up on. You got to be very meticulous about it," says Rachel Flynn, the City's Director of Planning and Development Review.

That includes a new computer system to maintain these problems, and eliminating the inconsistencies among inspectors looking at these properties.

The city is also going to hold property owners more responsible.

"Citizens don't like going to court, but if they don't follow the rules, then it's court time," she said.

Meanwhile, one of the answers to this problem, aside from the 28 recommendations in the report, is written on the problem itself: patience.

"Inch by inch, block by block, citizen by citizen and it's something we take seriously," adds Flynn.

"One block at a time," adds Richardson.

Of course the city has some lofty goals to accomplish in the coming months and years. But, it's changes they say need to be done to help fix the problem.

The new computer system will be up and running by January of next year. The City has also formed a management team to meet on a bi-weekly basis to make sure work is being made on the 28 recommendations in the report.

They are also going to ask for better reporting from its inspectors and make sure all of those inspectors are consistent. That means, the standard operating procedures, some of which are in a draft mode right now, will become set in stone and communicated with the staff.

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