The mayor of New Carrollton, one of Prince George's Country's newest cities, is fighting one of suburbia's oldest problems - urban blight.
Since 1972 the city's mayor, Jordan L. Harding, has been fighting for stricter enforcement of county ordinances concerning the proliferation of billboards and other eyesores that have blossomed in the county.
His latest frustration is the shortage of county building inspectors.
"The lack of good housing code enforcement and the fact that municipalities do not have zoning authority has let housing fall pitifullly behind," said Harding.
"We don't want to wake up and find out too late that it is going to take hundreds and thousands of dollars to take care of the problems," added Harding.
So concerned is Harding that he may ask county executive Winfield M. Kelly if New Carrollton can pay for an additional county housing inspector to police housing code violations.
"We are just not happy with county enforcement of housing codes," said Harding. Of Kelly's plan to improve the quality of life in the county by luring in new business, Harding asked, "How can we have new quality when we are letting businesses and housing decline?"
"The county has a problem of giving too little too late," Harding said.
Kelly, who cut 17 county inspection position last year, has said he will cut at least 11 more positions this year. There are 16 county housing inspectors but county inspectors number more than 70 when zoning, plumbing, electrical, animal control and others are included.
The Prince George's County executive said, "Our priorities have changed. There has been a movement in the last couple of years to tighten up on the number of inspectors. We are retraining them as well as eliminating positions."
Kelly said he has mandated redirection of inspections through budget cuts because the building boom of the 60's, which created larger ranks of inspectors, has ended in the county. Kelly says he now plans to refocus the county's housing inspections.
But one county housing inspector, Alexander Weiner, agrees with Harding's belief that there should be more county housing inspectors.
"We are just like firemen. Often we are called in on complaints, but by the time we get there the building is already going down," said Weiner.
The county housing inspector said the 16 county housing inspectors have kept up with complaints and have been able to deal with emergencies, but there is a need for more inspectors.
But Kelly cites successes by county housing inspectors, including the demolition of Baber Vallage, a county low-in-income housing project that did not meet county housing codes. "We beefing up inspections and all multi-family housing is under careful scrutiny," Kelly said.
The most recent example of code enforcement success, according to Kelly, was the September arrest of a New York owner of a Seat Pleasant apartment complex that did not meet housing codes.
Arrested was Fred C. Trump, the owner of Gregory Estates at 6918 George Palmer Hwy. Trump was ordered by a Prince Goerge's County judge to correct the code violations in all of the 504 units before his sentencing March 22.
"Less than 20 of those units have been rehabilitated," said Joseph T. Healy, the county's housing inspector supervisor. Healy, who said arrests for code violations are rare and that he prefers to work with owners in correcting violations, indicated that the newly refurbished Gregory Estate apartments that now meet county housing codes could be rented.