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DeKalb’s $6 million Beautification Unit kicks off

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 5/13/2016, 8:07 a.m.
Dozens of businesses and residences along Candler Road got surprise visits from DeKalb Code Enforcement officers on May 12 – ...
Crews work on a garden in front of the new Beautification Unit’s headquarters on Candler Road in Decatur. The county is modelling the level of landscaping it would businesses along the corridor to do.

Dozens of businesses and residences along Candler Road got surprise visits from DeKalb Code Enforcement officers on May 12 – not to cite them for violations of county codes, but to let them know that a new day has dawned in the county.

Officers Barbara Lorena and Torrance Armstrong visited properties along Candler Road on May 12.

Officers Barbara Lorena and Torrance Armstrong visited properties along Candler Road on May 12.

More than a dozen code enforcement officers went block by block between Glenwood Road and I-20 in Decatur to speak to owners and occupants of every building along the corridor and to hand them a memo from new Beautification Director Marcus Kellum and quick reference guides on property maintenance and zoning ordinances, business and alcohol licenses, sanitation, restrooms, and the I-20 Corridor Overlay District’s sign and architectural regulations.

The officers also left their business card with contact phone numbers and email addresses. The visits marked the launch of the county’s new $6 million Beautification Unit with 190 employees whose purpose is to transform DeKalb County into a place of beauty and curb appeal.

In his memo to “all residents and business owners,” Kellum said it is his job to ensure that all department staff provides complete, knowledgeable and accurate information regarding ordinances, codes and regulatory functions in the county.

“Our vision, as we begin implementing a new beautification strategy, is to optimize all obtainable resources in order to promote clean streets and county curb appeal,” Kellum wrote.

The Beautification Unit consolidated the county’s Code Enforcement Department, Keep DeKalb Beautiful, and the county’s Litter Abatement Patrol launched last December in the Sanitation Department.

Zachary Williams, the county’s chief operating officer, said that in five months of operation, the litter patrols collected 12,326 bags of trash, 4,038 tires, and 189 illegally dumped bags of garbage.

The flood of code enforcement officers along the corridor followed the 10 a.m. kickoff of the Beautification Unit at its new headquarters at 1807 Candler Road.

Interim CEO Lee May, decked out in a “I Love DeKalb” T-shirt; districts 3 and 6 Commissioners Larry Johnson and Kathie Gannon; and a host of other county officials attended the kickoff that also was followed by countywide cleanups.

May said the county is trying to act smarter, faster and better to create a better county and raise the quality of life.

“We realize that we have to invest more,” he said, adding that when he joined the Board of Commissioners in July 2006, the county had eight code enforcement officers.

“Today we have nearly 52,” he said.

The rest of the employees in the 190-member department are assigned to litter abatement and mowing and herbicide.

At the kickoff, Kellum said the beautification effort is necessary and consolidating code enforcement, which he headed for four years, with beautification is a “natural synergy.”

“We are going to prove to people that we care about our county,” he said.

Along with the visit to every building in the targeted area Thursday, code enforcement officers did visual inspections of the properties. Officer Barbara Lorena, who stopped at 2346 Candler Road where CrossRoadsNews is located, said any violations they saw were brought to the attention of the business owners and occupants.