ETOWAH, MCMINN COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) --  Etowah sits at the base of Star Mountain in McMinn County. With a population of about 34 hundred and more than 12 miles of sidewalk, the city prides itself on its natural beauty. However, over the years that beauty has been overshadowed by a number of condemned properties.

"Generally it's all over town," said Building Inspector David Mason.

"In a lot of small towns these codes, the enforcement of the codes is something that's always an issue," City Manager Matthew Gravley said.  

Those codes keep the property value up and the residents of Etowah happy. They range from citizens' lawn's grass growth to the actual look of the home.

"It's up to us to enforce those codes," Gravley said.  

Before it was up to the city manager or building code inspector to assess the properties and handle the disputes that sometimes come with it, but not anymore. The new hearing officer will use the city's maintenance codes to assess the properties and handle the disputes, should one arise.

"It gives more objectivity, it's a third party not connected with the city. To be the hearing officer, to be the judge of these disputes," Gravely explained.  

"I'd just like to bulldoze it down, these old condemned houses," said homeowner Robbie Ward.

Ward lives directly across the street from two condemned houses. He says he's asked the city to buy the property but so far nothing has happened.

"Rats, roaches, everything. I've even sprayed over there to try and kill things from making it over here you know, its nasty," Ward said.  

Now, he hopes the new hearing officer will be back around to look at the homes that have sat vacant and condemned for years.

"Get rid of the houses," Ward said.  

Only a small number of people can qualify to become a hearing officer. City officials say those who qualify have to be a judge, lawyer, engineer or building inspector. Since the job is contracted out by the city, residents won't have to pay one penny unless someone goes to court.

Mason says he and the new hearing officer will head to Nashville at the end of the month for training. He'll be able to take cases by the beginning of December.