By Sonya Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Members of the Belton Concerned Community Alliance planted the seeds of environmentalism, community service and community pride in hopes of sowing good works now and in the future.
The group's members were among an estimated 100 volunteers who participated in Belton's first "One Community-One Day" spring cleanup earlier this month.
Not only did BCCA volunteers assist in the cleanup efforts, they used the event as an opportunity to do good works and model good stewardship and citizenship.
"We want to teach our youth the value of 'giving back' within their abilities and means, to hand down the pride of preservation, the gift of freely giving without return. It is a moral obligation to swallow our pride and assist those who truly need someone to lean on in time of trouble," BCCA spokesman Joe Trevino Jr. said.
He said the group partnered with the city of Belton and Code Enforcement to bridge over barriers between citizens and local government.
"Many citizens may see code enforcement as an intrusive act, but others who take pride in their neighborhoods are concerned with health, safety, property value and taking pride in their communities," Trevino said.
During the cleanup, the group aided an elderly couple who was cited for an open storage code violation for "open storage" and were facing the likelihood of a fine or property lien.
Trevino said the couple is suffering financial hardships due to their medical needs and were physically unable to bring their property into compliance. BCCA volunteers not only helped enhance the appearance of the couple's property and head off potential court proceedings, they raised money for the couple by recycling items that were removed from the property.
"We turned the homeowners' code violations into nearly $400 by recycling (steel from the property). The money went toward medicine they needed. She in turn donated $100 back toward BCCA, as her wishes were to help another senior in need and (in the same) situation," Trevino said.
As Earth Day looms, he hopes others will be inspired to help the environment, beautify their community and assist a neighbor.
"When we become aware of problems in our communities and it's in our power to help, we can either be a part of the solution or part of the problem by doing nothing," Trevino said. "It's about serving others in need who genuinely cannot help themselves."
He also said, "We turn work into a fun thing."
Overall, 11 households were assisted during the cleanup, according to Belton's support services coordinator, Jerri Gauntt, who oversees the city's Youth Advisory Commission, which organized the event.
"Most of those in need of assistance were the elderly and/or disabled," she said.
While the code violation incurred by the couple BCCA helped was for "open storage," there are other infractions, such as illegal dumping.
According to the Bell County Sheriff's Office, springtime is the worst.
It was noted the county averages about 20 dumping calls a month - sometimes less - and sometimes up to 30 or 40.
Most of the calls in the county are reportedly on the outskirts of Killeen, primarily near Quarry Road and Loop 439 between Killeen and Nolanville - a popular site to dump used tires.
Killeen has adopted several city ordinances designed to reduce nuisances associated with several code violations: care of premises, graffiti, high weeds and grass, litter, trash and debris, junked vehicles, dangerous buildings and vehicle parking in residential areas.
High weeds and grass are considered a violation when growth exceeds 12 inches in height. Properties that are more than two acres must maintain a 50-foot wide strip adjacent to any public street, right-of-way or adjacent to any lot that is occupied by a residence or business.
The owner and tenant are responsible for maintaining the property from any adjacent street curbs to the back of their property. Any alley or right-of-way adjacent to their property must also be maintained.
Accumulations of litter, trash and debris on private premises can be more than just unsightly. By their presence, vermin-related and public health concerns often co-exist, according to the city.
When conditions within a property are visible from a public right-of-way and tend to reduce the visual appeal of the property, a possible unsightly or objectionable condition exists.
This condition could pertain to appliances, building materials, dead trees, limbs, brush, household items, rubbish, tires, vehicles or similar items that are openly stored or abandoned and must be removed.
Harker Heights Code Enforcement officers patrol daily throughout the city looking for violations of city ordinances.
"The overall goal of the code enforcement staff is not to continually generate large numbers of public nuisance cases from year to year, but to actually decrease the case load year to year by educating citizens as to the importance and need for code compliance," the city notes on its website.
While the city attempts to assist those with non-complying buildings or properties to come into compliance voluntarily, failure to do so results in court action.
Contact Sonya Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.