Local News

Man accuses code enforcement officer of going overboard

SEBRING - A Sebring man said Thursday he was rather surprised when the city's code enforcement officer recently ordered him to get rid of what he considers to be a small stain on his stucco house near Kenilworth Boulevard. "I think he's trying to justify his job," resident Richard Burbick said of the code inspector who cited his property. "It's not like I have sparking wires outside that could hurt someone. If someone doesn't like the appearance, they shouldn't look at it." Sebring Police Cmdr. Steve Carr said the code enforcement officer, who works for the Sebring Police Department, was doing his job to uphold the code and protect the safety and attractiveness of neighborhoods. It may not be the most pressing violation, but letting it go could lead to more serious problems down the road, Carr said.
Neglected and unsightly homes can transform a thriving neighborhood into one with abandoned homes, vagrants and criminals, he added. Burbick received documents requiring him to remove mold and mildew from his property and to appear before the code enforcement board on Feb. 25, where he could be fined up to $500 for violations. He said he believes it's a money-making operation for the city. The goal of code enforcement is not to raise revenue, Carr said. The police department and the code enforcement board are willing to help people who want to fix problems but are having difficulty doing so or need more time to complete the work. In most cases where fines are levied, the daily amount is a fraction of $500 per day, he said. The code was adopted decades ago to promote the safety and attractiveness of neighborhoods, Carr said. If someone believes the code should be changed, they can approach the Sebring City Council, he added. Burbick said he has owned the home for 24 years. At age 70, he said, he has bad legs and little financial ability to solve the problems. Chemicals that he sprayed on the structure to remove the stain haven't done the job and neither has bleach, Burbick said. The chemicals alone cost $20, he added. Burbick said he believes the stain occurred during pressure cleaning of the brick-like finishing on the stucco. Regardless of whether it's mildew, there's something, Carr said. He said that the city didn't single out Burbick. Other property owners along his street got notices. But, Carr said, the city doesn't want to cause Burbick financial hardship. "We'll work with him," he said.

Jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834