GMF sweeps cost taxpayers more than $30,000

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Signs posted on many of the apartment doors at the Tulane Apartments read "vacant unit." Others are boarded up.

According to HUD, in its most recent count, more than 80 percent of Tulane residents have relocated or are in the process of moving.

However, WREG has uncovered new details about the cost of cleaning up the Global Ministries mess.

The code enforcement sweeps, which revealed hundreds of violations at GMF properties and likely played a role in residents eventually moving elsewhere, came with a hefty price tag.

Patrick Dandridge is the deputy director at Public Works, the department that oversees Code Enforcement.

He told WREG, "We decided this year to start looking at the cost, because we noticed a trend where we have to do a lot more inspections of apartment units these days."

Code Enforcement calculations show it cost more than $30,000 for the sweeps at Goodwill, Warren and Tulane.

WREG obtained documents showing the visits to Goodwill Village alone between April 2015 and February of this year cost more than $11,000 in man hours.

The data captured shows the name of the complex, the number of inspectors who worked the sweep, time on site, along with the date and cost for the hours worked.

Dandridge says taxpayers shouldn't be the ones footing the bill.

"If a particular owner is in violation, requiring us to do a full inspection...that cost should not be paid by the city of Memphis, that cost should be paid by the owner, the violator."

Dandridge says they're exploring ways under the current law to get all of that money back.

"We're going to go to Environmental Court and file petitions perhaps and ask the Environmental Court judge to look at this, look at the fact that this apartment owner is in violations and this is what it cost the city," explained Dandridge.

Dandridge says there are several other cities that use similar models for what he describes as "full cost recovery."  He explained one possibility to recoup the funds would be through court costs.

Dandridge says as Code Enforcement takes a more aggressive approach, in inspections and ensuring violations are corrected quickly, it will mean more visits to places like Warren and Tulane.

"Right now, one of the biggest challenges we have in the city, apartment complexes are allowed to exist in these kind of conditions, we're going to address it."

In doing so, however, Dandridge says it's the violators, not the taxpayers, who should carry the cost.

GMF's cases for Warren, Tulane and Goodwill remain in Environmental Court. Dandridge says if implemented, it's possible to recover the costs of the hours associated with the associated sweeps.

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