A $30,000 donation means that property owners won’t have to pay for graffiti removal in the city of Asheville’s summer initiative, 1-2-3 Graffiti Free, if the removal cost is less than $500. Assistant City Manager Cathy Ball announced the news at an information meeting Friday, June 6, and also passed along guidelines for potential graffiti-removal contractors.
Department of Public Works crews remove or paint over graffiti that is on public property, but the 1-2-3 Graffiti-Free program will allow private property owners to request free removal by calling a hotline (259-5960) or using the online “Asheville App,” said Ball.
After the property owner calls for cleanup, a Public Works employee visits the site, estimates the cost of removing the graffiti, photographs it and has the property owner sign a waiver, she explained. The city then contacts a contractor — selected from a rotating list. The contractor will visit the site within four hours to evaluate. If the contractor accepts the assignment, the city requires that it be completed within 48 hours. The contractor must also submit photographic proof of removal in order to be paid by the city, Ball said.
In April, Asheville City Council approved the program, setting aside $300,000 for covering 90 percent of the payments to contractor. The initial proposal called for the city paying 90 percent of the cleanup costs and property owners paying the remaining 10 percent. Ball announced that an anonymous donor has stepped forward with $30,000, so this program is now free for property owners who’ve been tagged.
In order to spread the funding out over various locations for the 90-day period, per-location contractor work will be limited to the City paying $500. If a project is estimated to exceed that cost, the property owner will be billed by the city for the difference.
Contractors must provide their own cleaning equipment, paint and will have insurance requirements to become an approved vendor/contractor for the City. Contractors will use pressure washers, biodegradable cleaners and a standard color of grey paint to remove or cover up the graffiti. Property owners who prefer a different color must provide that paint at the time the contractor arrives to do the work.
The 1-2-3 Graffiti-Free initiative has these three steps:
1. Escalating civil penalties for perpetrators. This began April 23rd. First offense: $200 Second offense: $250 Third offense: $500 Fourth offense: $750 Fifth offense and beyond: $1,000 Ball said a teen recently charged with 20 tags was fined over $17,000.
2. 90-day intense cleanup initiative, July 1 through September 30. Private property owners call the city’s hotline or use the Asheville App. The first $500 of cleanup cost is free.
3. Long-term graffiti cleanup. Beginning Oct. 1, the City will begin identifying private property with graffiti that is deemed a nuisance. Compliance officers will issue notices to property owners, giving them seven days to remove graffiti. Property owners can request assistance from the city but must agree to pay 100 percent of the removal cost. The City will then send a contractor to remove the graffiti within 48 hours, and the property owner will be billed. If the property owner does not comply, the city may take legal action against the property owner.
Mountain Xpress Distribution Manager Jeff Tallman attended the June 6 session and prepared this summary.