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					                           City of Bristol Code Enforcement Study
                                   by MTAS, February, 2002

                                            Overview

       In September of 2001 the Bristol City Council developed a Strategic Plan, the purpose of
which was to provide a blueprint for the City=s future. Emerging from this effort was the following
goal: Families Want to Live Here. One of the Aaction steps@ related to this goal was: Code
Enforcement - Enhancements (Including a Slum and Blight Study). In order to accomplish this
MTAS was contacted and asked to conduct this study.

        The two MTAS consultants assigned to the study were Sharon Rollins, Manager,
Technical Consulting and Public Works Consultant and Pat Hardy, Municipal Management
Consultant. A legal review of the City=s ordinances and a comparison of these with those of
other cities and existing State law was conducted by Ann O=Connel, MTAS Special Legal
Consultant.

        This study focuses on a few basic code enforcement functions. These are: deteriorated
structures, weedy lots, junk vehicles, and clutter (accumulations on properties).

Methodology

       In order to accomplish this study the following methodologies were used:

       1.      Interviews were conducted with the following persons:

               Mayor Sue Ojanen
               Vice Mayor Trish Bane
               Council member John Gaines
               Council member David Shumaker
               Council member Kelly Graham
               City Manager Tony Massey
               Deputy City Manager Mike Sparks
               Assistant City Manager Bob Wilson
               Deputy Fire Chief Gary Maiden
               Codes Staff Lonnie Barrett
               Codes Staff Doug Reedy
               City Attorney Jack Hyder
               Judge Shelton Hillman
               Citizen Penny Odom
               Better Property Board Chairman Wes Griffin

       2.      Problematic areas of the City were toured with Council member John Gaines and
               City Manager Tony Massey.

       3.      An examination of the code enforcement process for each area of the study,


                                                1
               including technologies used, paperwork flow, etc.

       4.      An examination of the structure of the codes division, including staffing, chain of
               command, etc.

       5.      An examination of available codes enforcement data and processes used to produce
               this data.

       6.      An examination of the City=s code enforcement ordinances and a comparison of
               these with State laws and the ordinances of other cities.

       7.      A site visit and interviews with codes enforcement personnel in the cities of
               Johnson City and Elizabethton.

       8.      A look at nuisance-abatement programs successfully implemented in other
               communities.

General Discussion

        First, it should here be noted that there are many positive components in the Bristol Codes
Division. Foremost among these are the people who work in the division and those who volunteer
their time to assist the division, such as the members of the Better Property Board. All of these
individuals have worked very hard to achieve the desired results.

      The enforcement of Anuisance@ related codes involves a number of components, each of
which must work effectively in order to achieve results. Some of these include:

       A.      Effective code enforcement policies and support for these from the governing body.
       B.      A trained, motivated and effective code enforcement staff.
       C.      Nuisance abatement ordinances.
       D.      Code enforcement procedures and the technology and resources which support
               these.
       E.       The judicial system, including the City Attorney.
       F.      The citizenry.
       G.      The Better Property Board.

        Needless to say, with this many critical components in the code enforcement Asystem@, a
less than adequate performance by any one component can have an enormous effect on the entire
system. Here too, if more than one component performs at a slightly less than satisfactory level, all
parts will feel the effect. In essence the code enforcement process is one in which all components
must function as a unified Ateam@, with common agreement on the mission, goals, and processes
used to make the division successful. Our review found that overall coordination of this Ateam@
approach needs to be strengthened.



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       For example:

       S       the division has essentially two Apart-time@ employees (because they have other
               significant duties)
       S       they have a Apart-time@ Supervisor (because he has other significant duties)
       S       they are housed primarily at Station 3, with their Supervisor at Station 1, and
               part-time office hours in the Annex
       S       they have no support staff and computer support needs to be improved
       S       the division has no formal goals and objectives to help guide their activities and
               progress toward achieving their mission

         Because of these issues success has been hampered, and thus problems persist. In this
report we will look at each component of the Codes Division and discuss the role each plays in the
code enforcement process. Recommendations will be made which we believe may help improve
results.

        Nuisances will never go away. As such, nuisance abatement will continue to be a long-term
issue. As the community ages and grows new nuisances will emerge and must be addressed.
Therefore any good solution which improves the code enforcement process must be focused
long-term.


                                     The Legal Foundation

The City=s Ordinances

       Overall, Bristol has the appropriate ordinances to carry out an effective nuisance control
program, with only a few minor exceptions as discussed below. Some are in the Bristol Code and
some are in the Standard Building Code, which the City has adopted. Here are the applicable
sections:

       Ordinances (including Standard Building Code sections) related to deteriorated structures:

       S       Sec. 14-274 (c) of the Bristol Code.
       S       Sec. 103.2.1 of the Standard Housing Code.
       S       Sec. 305 of the Standard Housing Code.
       S       Sec. 307 of the Standard Housing Code.
       S       Sec. 309.1 of the Standard Housing Code.

       Ordinances (including Standard Building Code sections) related to junk or clutter:

       A.      Sec. 14-274 (c) of the Bristol Code.
       B.      Sec. 38-2 of the Bristol Code (applies specifically to junkyards).
       C.      Sec 50-14 of the Bristol Code.


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       D.      Sec. 58-2 of the Bristol Code.
       E.      Sec. 58-6 (a, c, and d) of the Bristol Code.
       F.      Sec. 58j-7 of the Bristol Code.
       G.      Sec. 307 of the Standard Housing Code.
       H.      Sec. 14-274 (c) of the Bristol Code.

       Ordinances (including Standard Building Code sections) related to weedy lots:

       A.      Sec. 58-8 (a) (with definitions in 58-1) of the Bristol Code.
       B.      Sec. 58-2 of the Bristol Code.
       C.      Sec. 307.4 of the Standard Housing Code.

       Ordinances related to junk (inoperable) vehicles:

       A.      Sec. 58-6 (c) of the Bristol Code.
       B.      Sec. 307.4 of the Standard Housing Code.

        Together these sections appear to cover nearly every situation related to deteriorated
structures, weedy lots, and clutter or junk. Additional ordinances provide the authority to enter
premises for the purpose of inspection and the procedures necessary for remediation of
complaints.

        Regarding Ajunk vehicles@, the Bristol Code could be amended to provide a stronger
definition. The two sections which deal with such vehicles merely define them as Ainoperable@. A
stronger definition could require that a current license be attached to the vehicle.
RECOMMENDATION: Develop an ordinance which provides stronger definitions for Ajunk
vehicles@.

       For ease of clarification, Sections 58-14 and 58-6 both deal with appliances and are quite
redundant. RECOMMENDATION: During the City=s next recodification these sections should
be combined.

        One other point of clarification should also be made during the next code update process.
Currently, Section 58-8(c) of the Bristol Code implies that costs related to bringing a property
Ainto compliance@ are a Atax@. However these costs are not a Atax@ but instead are a Alien@
against the property. RECOMMENDATION: Section 58-8 (c) of the Bristol Code should use
the same language as TCA 13-21-103(6) and TCA 6-54-113(c)(1).

       On the Aenforcement@ and Anuisance resolution@ side of the process the City is in need of
additional authority. RECOMMENDATION: The City should adopt by ordinance the provisions
of TCA 13-21-201 which grants the authority to acquire, (by eminent domain) vacant blighted
property, both residential and commercial. Such properties can then be sold, rehabilitated,
demolished, or granted to an appropriate user. Attached in the Appendices to this Report is an
example of this language from the City of Knoxville Code (see Appendix A). Knoxville has also

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developed a program specifically designed to return these properties to a decent condition. It is
called the AHomemakers Program@. Details of this program are also provided in the Appendices
(see Appendix B).

       It should also be noted that the City Attorney has identified a few additional ordinances
which somewhat relate to codes enforcement and which he believes are needed (e.g. an ordinance
dealing with abandoned swimming pools). His recommendations for additional authority should
be examined.

Legal Processes

         In general, the legal end of the process could be improved. A more proactive stance by all
of those involved in nuisance abatement is encouraged. They should decide a course of action and
see it through.

        During our interviews it became apparent that nearly everyone in the nuisance abatement
Achain@ has a great desire to Awork with@ property owners. Inspectors may Awork with@ property
owners several months before a case comes before the City Judge, then the Judge may Awork
with@ the property owner over a period of weeks or months. When each element of the chain
adopts this attitude the process is pushed along for an extended period of time, and results do not
occur as expected. During our interviews it was expressed that staff was not aggressive enough
and/or that the Judge was not aggressive enough.

        However there has recently been improvement in this area. It is strongly encouraged that
this be continued and that the process be Atightened@ in order to narrow the time period for action.
This should be communicated throughout the Division and to the City Judge as well.

        It is possible that more properties will have to be ordered for demolition or acquired by the
City in order to move forward. No one wants to take the process to this level, but this should be an
option for the most difficult cases. RECOMMENDATION: The City Council should budget
additional dollars toward a Acampaign@ to eliminate and/or acquire certain Aproblem@
properties (currently $10,000 is budgeted). This recommendation must be done in coordination
with the next recommendation identified below.

        In cases where a $50 fine is not effective, it is recommended that a more direct action be
taken . RECOMMENDATION: Direct corrective action should be taken on more properties and
a lien placed against such property. Though the City will have to fund such actions, this
investment will be recovered when taxes are paid, when the property is sold, auctioned, or when
the property is rehabilitated and placed back on the tax roles.

       TCA 13-21-103 provides cities with the authority to undertake this recommendation.
However, in order to make the process effective the City should meet with the County Register of
Deeds and County Trustee in order to coordinate recovery of the city=s direct-action investment.
This section of TCA requires that the County Trustee collect the Acosts@ of corrective action which

                                                 5
are placed as a special lien (see TCA 13-21-103(6)). These Acosts@ are to be collected at the same
time and in the same manner as property taxes are collected.

       In addition, the City may want to encourage the use of garnishment as a means of providing
Ateeth@ to the fine(s) which are assessed against a violator (see TCA 6-54-303 and Title 26,
chapters 1-3).


                                           Operations

Structure

        The Codes Enforcement Division currently resides in the Fire Department, with Deputy
Chief Gary Maiden as Supervisor. As we understand it the Codes Enforcement Division was
placed in the Fire Department 8 years ago due to structural problems and in order to improve its
performance.
        An MTAS survey of 7 Tennessee cities (population range 20,000-38,000) in 1998
indicated that codes personnel are usually placed in the engineering, planning or public works
department of the city=s organizational structure. The survey is included in the Appendix to this
Report (see Appendix C).

        We are not recommending that the codes enforcement division be placed in another
department of the City, but it should be considered. In any event, we do believe that the dispersed
physical location of the Codes Division inhibits an effective working relationship with other
departments. The lack of centralization of codes staff and constant in-out schedule of staff makes
good customer service more difficult. In addition it does not allow for effective coordination and
supervision of activities. RECOMMENDATION: The Codes Division, including the Codes
Division supervisor, should be physically housed in the Department of Development Services
and a close working relationship be developed. Additional recommendations regarding the
relationship with other departments is discussed later in this report.

       In terms of the Division=s supervision, the City may want to consider that another frontline
supervisor be designated. The current arrangement makes effective supervision difficult.

Goals, Objectives, and Coordination of Activities

        The Codes Division does not have a specific set of goals and objectives which support their
mission. RECOMMENDATION: The Codes Division should develop a yearly set of goals and
objectives to guide achievement of their mission. Each year a group of Aproblem properties@
should be identified and a strategy developed to abate the nuisances related to these properties. At
the same time strategies should be developed to attack the baseline services provided by the
division, i.e. junk vehicle removal, weedy lots, complaint response, etc. All of this should be
accomplished at a yearly Aplanning session@ which involves key staff from other related
departments.

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       Within the Codes Division itself, better coordination of activities is suggested. In
addition, to improve the effectiveness of the Codes Division, better coordination with other
departments is encouraged. This will improve coordination with other City departments. It will
also improve interdepartmental teamwork.. RECOMMENDATION: Monthly coordination
meetings should be held in the Codes Division (these should include staff from other
departments as needed).

Data

       It has been difficult to determine specific problems or areas of improvement in the Codes
Division because much of the information has been oral. There is very little documented data
available which would permit an accurate view of outcomes. It is recommended that a better
documented procedure be used in order to more accurately measure the effectiveness of nuisance
abatement efforts.

        For example, a review of the limited available data indicates that there were approximately
1,302 housing and code inspections in the year 2000, and approximately 1,234 (through
September) in 2001. If only January through September figures are used there were 1,023 in 2000
and 1,234 in 2001 (a 21% increase from 2000 to 2001). However, these data include inspections
other than those related to nuisances. This being the case it is impossible to determine the number
of nuisance-related activities undertaken by the Division.

        As of October, 2001 the Deputy Chief began to provide a more detailed report of the
Division=s activities. This report is a great improvement. The report shows Aslum and blight@
issues which have been corrected. For example, in September of 2001 there were 13
nuisance-related corrections.

       In order to improve these reports, it is suggested that all actions related to nuisance
abatement activities be included. This will better illustrate the department=s activity levels and
provide a continual update regarding specific properties.

        We have also examined the currently utilized software which produces an Ainspection
record@ for each Acase@ in the system. These records do not generate adequate aggregate data and
are lacking in terms of their ability to Aguide@ each case as it proceeds through the process, which
can be lengthy.

       RECOMMENDATION: The Codes Division should acquire and fully utilize a quality
Acomplaint/case/inspection tracking@ software. Such a software will provide quality data which
accurately reflects the activity levels of the Division and which induces accountability for results
based on these data. The software will also help to guide each Acase@ which enters the system,
thereby moving it along in a more expeditious manner and providing improved case
documentation. A list of complaint tracking softwares is provided in the Appendix to this Report
(see Appendix D).

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        It should also be noted that inspector casework may need improvement in terms of
documentation. The Division recently began to use a digital camera. This is an excellent addition.
This, coupled with the recommended software should improve documentation for nuisance
abatement cases.

        RECOMMENDATION: Quarterly reports should be generated which reflect the full
scope and status of the Division=s efforts. These reports can also be integrated in to the City=s
GIS system so that physical tracking of problem areas and progress toward resolution can be made
(and communicated to the general public). The City of San Antonio, Texas provides a good
example of this integration (see: www.sanantonio.gov/codecomp/Statistics.asp#District 9). These
reports will help the City=s management in evaluating code enforcement efforts.

Staff Support

        Codes Division does not currently have any support staff. The activities of the Division
require numerous mail-outs, letters, and other communications with citizens and groups such as
the Better Property Board. RECOMMENDATION: Consideration should be given to hiring a
secretary or Aadministrative assistant@ to help the Division with these activities.

        As it is now, the codes inspectors must return to their offices to produce these
communications and enter inspection notes and documentations into their computers.
RECOMMENDATION: Laptop computers should be purchased and issued to inspectors so
that inspection documentation and legwork can be completed in the field.

Standard Operating Procedures

       No AStandard Operating Procedures@ exist in the Division in order to provide protocol in
terms of standardized approaches to nuisance abatement. We asked for and received a written
description of existing protocol and we are, for the most part, satisfied with the process (with some
exceptions as noted later). However, the basic procedures should be nearly the same in each case
and should be consistent from inspector to inspector. RECOMMENDATION: A set of Standard
Operating Procedures should be developed and utilized. An example of Standard Operating
Procedures (from the City of Oak Ridge) are provided as an attachment to this Report (see
Appendix E).

Communications

       In the past the City Council has indicated they would like to see more Aprogress@ from the
Codes Division, and on the other side the staff did not feel Asupported@ by the City Council. Thus
we believe that a part of the quarterly reporting process discussed above should include
information which helps the Council understand, through real examples, elements of the nuisance
abatement process.



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        In addition, as part of the development of the Division=s goals and objectives, the Council
should express their expectations for the Division. They should know of the specific Aproblem
properties@ which have been identified for yearly action, and should be prepared to support the
staff when a course of action is taken.

         An equally important element in nuisance abatement involves the citizenry. As mentioned
earlier, the citizenry is a key link in the nuisance abatement process and a lack of Aparticipation@
on their part can be detrimental to the accomplishment of the Division=s goals. The citizenry must
clearly know what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they don=t participate.
RECOMMENDATION: The Codes Division should develop and implement a basic Apublic
relations@ campaign designed to communicate nuisance-related codes and the consequences
for violation. This should include a presence on the City=s web page (see the City of Knoxville
web page for a good example), written pamphlets, handouts for customers, guidelines, etc.

       The Division may even want to consider a more comprehensive campaign which involves
community groups, beautification awards, a yearly Aclean-up@ campaign, etc. This creative
approach would involve the community at the early-solution stage. One councilmember gave us a
good suggestion - to send a card of Athanks@ to the person who responds within an allotted time
frame to a Codes Division request to correct a violation.

       RECOMMENDATION: The Codes Division should develop and use its own letterhead
when communicating with citizens (they currently use Fire Department letterhead). They should
also have their own phone number.

                                    Other Recommendations


Citizen Complaints

         Citizens often do not feel comfortable initiating a complaint with the Codes Division.
There is a fear that their name may be made know to the offender. Citizens should be able to
communicate that a violation of the City Code has occurred. It is the responsibility of the Codes
Division to see that the violation is corrected. This is a fundamental component of a division which
has a regulatory function. However, due to State open records laws, the name of the person
initiating the complaint must be made available if a request for such is made. This being the case it
may be best to not record the name of the person making the complaint unless they agree to such.

       We also became aware that in some cases there may be an unspoken focus on Awhere
complaints come from@. It goes without saying that a violation is a violation and should be treated
as such, regardless of the source of the complaint.

       Here too, if citizens want to know what happens as a result of their complaint the Division
should follow-up and let them know. This is an important part of the Apublic relations@ process.
RECOMMENDATION: The Codes Division should not reveal the name of the person

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complaining unless a specific request for such is made, and should follow up with citizens who
do complain (if they so desire) in order to make them aware of progress toward remediation.


Implementation of This Report

        There are a wide variety of recommendations contained in this Report. As previously noted
there have recently been improvements made in nuisance abatement efforts. The suggested
recommendations in this report should be implemented in order to continue with improvements
over the long-range.

        Many of these recommendations will be difficult to put in place and will not happen in the
short term. A long-term commitment is needed in order to improve the fundamental nature of the
nuisance abatement process. RECOMMENDATION: Appropriate management staff should be
identified and assigned the responsibility to oversee implementation of the recommendations in
this report. Support for these efforts should be sustained for a number of years.

        We believe these suggested improvements will greatly enhance the nuisance abatement
function of the Codes Division and related components in the City of Bristol, Tennessee. They
will build on the positive efforts of the many persons who contribute to making Bristol an
attractive place to live and work.




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                              Summary of Recommendations


1.    Develop an ordinance which provides stronger definitions for Ajunk vehicles@.

2.    During the City=s next recodification sections 58-14 and 58-6 of the Bristol Code should
      be combined.

3.    Section 58-8 (c) of the Bristol Code should use the same language as TCA 13-21-103(6)
      and TCA 6-54-113(c)(1).

4.    The City should adopt by ordinance the provisions of TCA 13-21-201.

5.    The City Council should budget additional dollars toward a Acampaign@ to eliminate
      and/or acquire certain Aproblem@ properties.

6.    Direct corrective action should be taken on more properties and a lien placed against such
      property.

7.    The Codes Division, including the Codes Division supervisor, should be physically housed
      in the Department of Development Services and a close working relationship be
      developed.

8.    The Codes Division should develop a yearly set of goals and objectives to guide
      achievement of their mission.

9.    Monthly coordination meetings should be held in the Codes Division (these should include
      staff from other departments as needed).

10.   The Codes Division should acquire and fully utilize a quality Acomplaint/case/inspection
      tracking@ software.

11.   Quarterly reports should be generated which reflect the full scope and status of the
      Division=s efforts.

12.   Consideration should be given to hiring a secretary or Aadministrative assistant@ to help
      the Division.

13.    Laptop computers should be purchased and issued to inspectors so that inspection
      documentation and legwork can be completed in the field.

14.   A set of Standard Operating Procedures should be developed and utilized.




                                              11
15.   The Codes Division should develop and implement a basic Apublic relations@ campaign
      designed to communicate nuisance-related codes and the consequences for violation.

16.   The Codes Division should develop and use its own letterhead when communicating with
      citizens.

17.    The Codes Division should not reveal the name of the person complaining unless a
      specific request for such is made, and should follow up with citizens who do complain (if
      they so desire) in order to make them aware of progress toward remediation.

18.   Appropriate management staff should be identified and assigned the responsibility to
      oversee implementation of the recommendations in this report.




                                             12
APPENDICES




    13
         Appendix A

  City of Knoxville Ordinance
(With Eminent Domain Sections)




             14
15
16
17
                   Appendix B

City of Knoxville AHomemakers Program@ Description




                       18
19
20
               Appendix C

MTAS Location of Inspection Division Survey




                    21
City Name & Organizational       No.           & Positions     for   Other Building
Population  Location       of    Certification of Commercial         Inspection
            Building             Building         Plans Review       Dept.
            Inspection           Inspectors                          Employees
Columbia    Engineering under    2 total          City Engineer      1          admn.
32,043      City Manager         2-building                          Secretary;    1
                                                                     part-time
                                                                     secretary
Cleveland      Planning        & 4 total          Chief     Building 1 secretary
33,755         Inspection under 3-building,       Official
               City Manager       mechanical and
                                  plumbing
                                  1-codes officer
Franklin       Codes     Admin. 5 total           Plans Examiner      2 full time code
29,259         Under         City 5-building                          enforcement
               Administrator                                          officers;      3
                                                                      clerical
Gallatin       Technical          3 total           Building          1 secretary
20,551         Services     under 1-plans review,   Inspector II
               Director of PW     plumbing,
                                  mechanical &
                                  building
                                  1-plumbing &
                                  building
Hendersonville Codes Dept. under 3 total            Director       of 1 secretary
37,898         Mayor              2-building        Codes             1 business tax
                                  1-plumbing                          clerk
Oak Ridge      Development        4 total           Primary           1 secretary
27,310         Implementation     1-planning,       Building
               under Asst. City mechanical,         Inspector
               Manager            building,
                                  1-plumbing
                                  1-mechanical
                                  1-code
                                  enforcement
                                  officer
Smyrna         Codes Building 3 total               Plans Examiner    1 admn. assistant
19,909         Official     under 2-building
               Mayor              1-plans
                                  examiner


                                         22
           Appendix D

Complaint Tracking Software Sources




                23
               BRISTOL: COMPLAINT TRACKING SYSTEMS RESOURCES

1. JPH International has ASuite Response CRM@. Contact is: www.jphint.com or
612-890-8557

2. Sanderson Co. has different packages.
To get their info package call Derick Amos in Englewood Ohio 937-836-4499 ext 3158
amosd@sandersoncmi.com
www.sandersoncmi.com

3. Bakersfield CA has a web based system for tracking. 616-326-3000.

4. Roanoke VA uses ARespond@. Call them at 540-981-2000

5. Des Plains IL has a system in public works at 847-391-5460

6. Dallas has a system. Contact Eva Imhonde, Manager of Information Systems at 214-670-3944.

7. Atlanta GA
Has a correspondence tracking system.
Ed Laster 404-730-7200

8. San Bernardino, CA has a case system.
Dianah Neff at 909-387-7278

9. Jackson, TN
Has a hot line system. Talk to Ron Barry at 731-425-8582

10. City of Roswell
Uses ACTion!, Sungard/Pentamation product which is a customer request tracking software.
Kelly Tate, Community Information Manager
ktate@ci.roswell.ga.us
770-641-3727

11. Mesa, AZ
Uses an automated system call ASuiteResponse@ (the company can be found at www.jphint.com).
It notifies staff by e-mail of a citizen contact requiring their attention. It also tracks responses.
Jenny Sheppard, Assistant to the City Manager
480-644-4677

12. Milwaukee uses AContrack@ (from Daystar Computer Systems at www.daystarnet.com).
Contact in Milwaukee is Ronald Leonhardt, City Clerk   414-286-2221




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                 Appendix E

City of Oak Ridge Standard Operating Procedures




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