TEMPLE TERRACE — Code enforcement officers from the cities of Tampa and Temple Terrace conducted a sweep along the border of the two cities Thursday as city crews cleaned up debris and cited property owners for violations.
Television, radio and newspaper reporters accompanied officers into the neighborhoods in this high-profile effort kicked off by a news conference with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura.
"Code issues are like a cancer," said Buckhorn, "and if you don't eradicate it, if you don't stay on top of it, it will spread through a neighborhood like a cancer through the human body."
Chillura said that a joint effort with the two cities to attack blight along the border has been in the works for weeks. Tampa has been conducting its own code enforcement sweep since the news broke about William "Hoe" Brown, former chairman of the Tampa Port Authority, keeping squalid mobile homes as rental units on his property.
"I believe code enforcement, along with law enforcement efforts, are the two strategies to resurrecting and revitalizing blighted areas," Chillura said. "The joint efforts give us a chance to learn what's happening both on the Temple Terrace and Tampa side." They'll continue working together, he said.
Mike Dunn, spokesman for Temple Terrace, said crews issued warnings or made notes of 17 violations, among them broken windows, debris, inoperable vehicles and overgrown conditions. About 30 percent of the violations were in Temple Terrace, the rest in Tampa.
At Buckhorn's urging, the teams departed, some crews appearing minutes later at an abandoned restaurant on Fowler Avenue at 52nd Street, which divides the two cities. Tampa workers removed old furniture from near the parking lot, picked up old tires, swept debris, mowed and trimmed overgrown trees and shrubs.
"Those places in there where those trees are, those are hiding places," said Tampa code enforcement officer Roberta Bowmer. "And that affects the safety and security of everybody."
Bowmer, teamed up with Joe Gross, head of code enforcement for Temple Terrace, directed a lot of the cleanup at the abandoned restaurant, formerly known as the Whistle Junction.
Tampa code officer Lee Hartman slapped orange stickers on two abandoned cars, giving the owners until Monday before they are towed away.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to include the following correction. A story about a code enforcement sweep along the border of Tampa and Temple Terrace should have said that crews cleaned the parking lot of a vacant restaurant at Fowler Avenue and 52nd Street. A story published Friday gave an incorrect location.