Local News

Avon Park considers full-time code officers

AVON PARK - The city council is looking at stepping up the city's code enforcement efforts by making one or two part-time code enforcement officer positions full time. At Monday's council meeting, City Councilman Terry Heston said most of the calls he receives from citizens involve code enforcement issues such as tall grass. He believes the council should consider hiring a full-time code enforcement officer if the city has the money. City Manager Julian Deleon said he can review it and see if the city has the funding.
Councilman Parke Sutherland said he would like to see the numbers so council could potentially adjust the 2013-14 budget at the first council meeting in September, which falls Sept. 9. He agreed with Heston. "I want to see aggressive code enforcement," Sutherland said. "I want to see compliance and not necessarily an intent by the city to try to make money off of liens or fines for enforcement." Some issues were getting behind, but that was due to the lack of a magistrate, he said. Deleon said it would cost about $22,000 to $24,000 to convert one code enforcement officer position to full time, or double that for two full-time slots. Deleon said Thursday the city hired a magistrate recently to preside over code enforcement hearings. About seven months ago, the city council established code enforcement as a high priority, but the city's code enforcement is basically part time, he explained. Code enforcement duties are currently handled by the city's three public safety officers and two part-time code enforcement officers, Deleon said. The July Code Enforcement Report shows the city issued 148 written notices of violations. The notices were issued by the following city employees: Code Enforcement Officer Greg Warner (108), Project Manager Joseph Sliva (24), Public Safety Director Jason Lister (3) and Code Enforcement Officer Seth Henderson (13). Of those 148 notices, 84 have come into compliance and 64 notices remain active. The city collected $1,387.50 in fines and fees in July. The code report noted there was no special magistrate hearing during the month of July. Deleon explained that Henderson is training to become a city public safety officer. Sliva was temporarily assigned to code enforcement as the council wanted code enforcement to be a priority at the beginning of the year. Sliva has returned to his duties in city hall, Deleon said. A full-time public safety officer position was filled with the hiring of Chris Watkins; a part-time public safety officer has been hired. Most people responded "no" on Facebook when Highlands Today asked if Avon Park needs full-time code enforcement officers. Cory Compton said police can do the job of code enforcement without any more added costs. Lou Mingacci said: "How about fixing it so people can build a home without hiring an engineer or architect? If it is to code who cares. Help out the community." mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826