New code enforcement officer introduced to community

MONTE VISTA—At the April 4 Coffee with a Cop, Police Chief John Rosecrans gave a quick summary of recent MVPD activity before introducing the city’s new code enforcement officer, Jeffrey Huff, to the community and giving him an opportunity to explain his philosophy in enforcing city ordinances.

Rosecrans explained Shield 616 has partnered with Safeway to ask shoppers at checkout to donate to local law enforcement (please see related press release on page #). Shield 616 recently displayed the bullet proof vests they provided for the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s office and Rosecrans indicated if possible, MVPD may look at new SWAT equipment with the donations. Rosecrans also happily discussed the success of the Easter Egg Hunt on March 31, noting “Between 2,200 and 2,300 eggs were hunted in…well maybe three minutes… we had a great turnout and the weather was great.” Rosecrans added in addition to Huff, MVPD has two new officers just beginning.

Huff, a retired Department of Corrections Officer, began by joking that Rosecrans had referred to him as a “big guy” because of his height, before more seriously discussing his personality. “I’m really reserved to a point but I don’t want anyone to think I don’t have a competitive side,” Huff said, discussing his dedication to learn the municipal code and help improve the town to the best of his ability. “I’m not going to make something up if I don’t know it… I’ll educate myself,” adding “The town should be proud of itself for the officers they have… everybody in this community should be very proud,” Huff said.

“A lot of people who have been around a long time are starting to feel like a punching bag,” Huff said of residents’ attitudes toward reporting code violations. Huff stated he has talked to a lot of homeowners who have made investments in their properties and have reported other violators they feel are hurting the quality of their neighborhood. Huff indicated he would not give up names of those reporting violations and would do his best to investigate.

One of Huff’s focuses is the Lariat Ditch, as he recanted having met with stakeholders in the ditch “and heard a long saga from the president of the ditch… I don’t care about the past… as of this Friday, a local business owner will be out there spraying what is essentially vinegar on the weeds and cleaning trash out of the ditch.” Huff had a lot of praise for the business owner, Phinel Garcia of Absolute Shine, and the MVP Elite Traveling Basketball Clubs. “I have 30 years of experience coaching sports… everyone should back him 110 percent. That’s what we all go to work for, our kids, communities and homes.” Huff praised Garcia’s teaching the team to earn their way by working in the community to better the buildings, ditches and common spaces and praised his checking grades for a club sport.

Huff also discussed possibly using recreation department volunteers with Recreation Director Jaime Hurtado, who stated he sometimes waives the $45 fee to participate for families who can’t afford it, if the student is willing to help do some cleanup projects like taking trash out at the parks. “I love kids…my greatest claim to fame is having the winningest team in the district when I coached little league in Las Vegas, but also that everyone on my team got a college scholarship.”

In addition to the Lariat Ditch, Huff indicated he has already been working on the train car issue on the property near Acequia Ave., addressing roaming dogs in a different way, getting some of the problem properties cleaned up and increasing code enforcement presence.

Huff indicated he had a contact at the railroad and said he would be willing to call that person every five minutes if he had to until the property gets cleaned up. Former City Attorney Gene Farish indicated Huff would face an uphill battle getting property owner Don Shank to comply, indicating it took four years and intervention with the transportation board to get the first 17 cars removed. Farish encouraged Huff to remember there are weeds on the properties, railcars and unsafe structures involved in the case and to prioritize what he can do, which Huff agreed with but stated “I won’t stop.”

Huff indicated he is working on establishing a relationship with the Conour Animal Shelter staff, taking the manager on ride-alongs twice a week to look at some potential problems he has encountered with animals. Huff indicated his goal is not to separate people from their dogs or burden them with citations, “but there are a lot of people in this town who don’t want to read the code or don’t respect it,” and he wants to see a change in the issue of dogs roaming freely.

Huff addressed the multiple “eyesore” properties around town, stating it’s puzzling how many homes are abandoned or have junk in their yards. Huff stated it is unfair to others in their neighborhoods who pay their mortgages and have to look at that but he understands sometimes income is a factor in the homeowners’ or tenants’ abilities to clean up. He will give homeowners a fair chance and wants to see progress made in some instances before using courts, citations and liens against properties but he indicated he is more than willing to use those when necessary. Huff also stated there are lots of homeowners who abuse the system and get the city to kick out their tenants for them and not make any improvements to the property.

Instead of working a predictable 10 hours for four days a week, Huff indicated he will also work sporadically on the other three days so violators don’t assume there’s no enforcement over those days and added he will also make an effort to drive every street, every day if possible.

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