By Jill Draper
What happens in south KC usually can be resolved in south KC—that’s the intent of a go-between position that helps people avoid code violation fines and court appearances for nuisances like overgrown grass, trash and litter.
Some 70% of property owners have voluntarily corrected these types of problems since the South Kansas City Alliance hired a codes advocate in 2019, says John Sharp, SKCA president. The codes advocate works as an intermediary between the city’s 311 Action Center and the Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department (which pays the advocate’s salary and mileage) to inspect situations and spur compliance.
“It’s not people being ornery. Everyone has been pleasant,” says Andrew Gill, who has been the SKCA codes advocate since October. “The situation usually is that life takes over and things fall off the radar.”
Here’s how it works. Gill receives complaints from the 311 center about property located in the 5th and 6th City Council districts. He drives to an address to inspect the situation, takes photos and if warranted, sends a courtesy letter asking that the problem be corrected. After two weeks he returns to make sure the owner has complied. If so, the case is closed. If not, it’s handed back to the city. Illegal dumping and illegally parked cars are separate matters that Gill does not handle.
“This has been a win-win partnership,” says Sharp, who notes that blight is often promptly corrected and property owners are spared from Housing Court appearances and the possibility of hefty fines. He says the position is modeled after a similar program operated by Northland Neighborhoods Inc.
Gill estimates he’s handled 150 complaints in the last several months. Growing up in south KC, he attended Red Bridge Elementary and Center Middle School. “I thought I knew the area pretty well,” he says. “But I realized I had stayed mainly on the western side. Now I’m learning about the Ruskin Heights area and Grandview Road. It’s kind of neat.”
If individuals see a codes violation that needs correcting, they should call 311 or file a complaint online at kcmo.gov, clicking on the 311 tab. About 99% of people do this anonymously. If neighborhood leaders or homeowner associations want to contact Gill, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-600-0737. Gill can answer questions about specific complaints or help arrange a blue bag neighborhood cleanup.