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Archive for March 26th, 2009

Code Enforcement
Mission, Workload, Performance Standards and Adequate Staffing

Mission: Promote, protect, and improve the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens through effective code enforcement.

Currently, the department employees feel overtaxed, under-appreciated and understaffed. The community is frustrated by the growth of deteriorating structures and perennial problems associated with blight. The Common Council must balance budget constrictions and the expectations of its constituents.

In order to establish effective code enforcement in our City, we must enable better oversight of the department, set targeted, statistical benchmarks, and establish performance standards for staff. The Council must ensure that the zoning ordinances and maps are redrafted to so that they clearly articulate the desires of the community expressed in the Comprehensive Plan and spur revitalization of the municipality.

Action steps:
– weekly staff meetings
– establish a formal process of prioritizing cases
– better public relations/customer service enhancement
– better public access to case files
– assess current forms/documents
– maintain files/process paperwork in a timely, accurate fashion
– better communication between departments: APD, AFD, Engineering, Corporation Counsel
– better communication with Common Council
– set measurable performance benchmarks
(geographic coverage, target response times, data collection, reporting)

Management/tracking:
Reports should include:
– all existing information for each case
– priority status level
– assigned case officer
– date of each case entry
– all civil fines/administrative costs assessed by date of action
– liens attached
– final disposition of complaint at closure

Management must track:
– active (open) case count
– distribution of cases by priority for each officer (age of each case, type of violation, etc.)
– average time and minimum/maximum times from complaint to first investigation
– average time and minimum/maximum times for reporting all steps until final disposition

New computerized system will allow:
– centralized case management
– data auditing
– GIS in real time enforcement activities
– prioritization/scheduling
– interactive exchanges between departments

My suggestions:
Invest in resources to address unmet expectations:
– restructure department (implement supervisory position and part-time exterior code technician)
– develop organizational chart and new job descriptions, new schedule
– conduct costs/benefit analysis
– contract out work to “catch up” inspections, administration, planning review and enforcement services. Put out RFP for temporary, outside assistance.
– supply cell phones to each code enforcement officer
– implement GPS tracking system
– possibly increase application fees for permitting/building/planning services to support higher service standards

We will call a Codes Committee meeting in the near future to invite solutions and commentary from the Whole of the Common Council.

Staffing issues (in the Codes Department and others) and the zoning ordinance/maps redraft will be addressed while we are tackling the 09/10 budget.

We must work together to meet the needs of our community.

P.S. I have received seven (7) proposals for the zoning ordinance/maps redraft.

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