Whether it’s a problem with a neighbor’s tree hanging into the yard or a dog constantly barking next door, the city of Henderson is offering a mediation service to help residents resolve problems.
“It is easy to be upset when you don’t have that face time,” said Emily Lewis, a senior neighborhood specialist with the city of Henderson. “Once you sit down with someone and see they are a human being, too, it helps defuse the situation.”
Lewis said the city found that resources were being wasted when residents were contacting various offices to report problems in the neighborhood.
When staff members investigated, they found those problems were often the result of disputes between neighbors.
“People would call code enforcement on neighbors or animal control on a barking dog,” she said.
To resolve issues amicably, the city launched a satellite mediation program in 2012. The Clark County Neighborhood Justice Center already had a mediation program. Now, it funnels any Henderson-specific requests to the city for it to handle.
According to Paula Haynes-Green, the director of the Neighborhood Justice Center, the program was founded in 1991.
“It was designed to provide conflict resolution, information, referral and mediation services to Clark County residents, businesses and organizations,” she said.
The program includes community mediation where residents can receive conciliation services; court mediation, which is scheduled by the Clerks of Courts in small claims cases; victim offender mediation, which is a restorative justice program for juvenile offenders and their victims; and a conflict intervention team, which allows mediators to stabilize volatile situations in schools, neighborhoods and workplace environments. Henderson is offering the community mediation component.
“North Las Vegas and Boulder City are moving toward similar models,” Haynes-Green said.
Lewis said it handles a variety of cases.
“We see a lot of dog barking cases,” she said.
It takes only one neighbor to reach out for mediation. The city will contact the second party to try to arrange a voluntary discussion. Once everything is arranged, both parties are expected to sit down for a two-hour session.
“We make sure there is respectful dialogue,” Lewis said. “Each party has a chance to explain their point of view uninterrupted. If the other party has something they really need to say, we give them notepads to write it down on so they remember. We act as the referees.”
There are two mediators — city staff members — in the room with the parties. City staff members have been trained to be mediators through the program with the Neighborhood Justice Center.
Each party is usually given 10 to 15 minutes to explain their thoughts.
Lewis said often the mediation is the first time people have met face to face.
“The majority of these cases reach a written or verbal agreement,” Lewis said.
She said if one of the neighbors violates the agreement, the other might be able to pursue civil action.
If the parties still have more to discuss at the end of the session, Lewis added that they can schedule a follow-up meeting.
Meetings are held privately at no cost.
“I hope the program can grow in the future,” she said. “I want to get the word out about it. Rather than go to court, this is a creative solution to get along with your neighbor.”
In a city where houses are closer together, Lewis said it can be easier to see conflict among residents.
“I grew up in the Midwest,” she said. “We were a lot more spacious.”
Lewis said the city is still getting the word out about the program.
“I encourage people who have disputes to take a look at the program,” she said.
For more information, call 702-455-3898.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201.