WATERVILLE — The city needs another code enforcement officer, but cannot afford to hire one.

That was the gist of the discussion Tuesday as city councilors reviewed a proposed $89,750 code enforcement budget for 2013-14.

The proposal reflects a slight increase from the current $85,620 budget. Taxes and insurances are the reason for the increase, according to Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins.

Discussion about the need for another code enforcement officer started when Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, asked Collins if he had any technical needs, such as an iPad he could use to connect with the office more when he is on the road.

“You really need two code enforcement officers, is what you need” more than new technology, he told the council.

Collins said smaller communities have more code enforcement officers than Waterville does, for instance, Skowhegan and Oakland each have two.

Collins’ home town of Clinton, with a population of around 1,500 people, has a full-time code enforcement officer, he said.

“We’re really below standards here as far as being able to keep up,” he said, adding that there are building and other projects happening in the city that he is not even aware of.

City Manager Michael Roy said he hoped to add an administrative assistant in the budget to assist not only Collins, but also City Engineer Greg Brown and City Planner Ann Beverage, all of whom work in close proximity on the third floor of The Center.

“The budget numbers just don’t allow it,” Roy said.

Collins said he has not had a day off in 10 years, a comment that concerned Mayor Karen Heck.

“If there was a second code enforcement officer or some person doing some stuff in the office, is there an opportunity to increase revenues in any way?” Heck asked.

“That’s a possibility,” Collins said. “Two people are better than one.”

Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, noted that hiring another person also would increase the department’s cost.

Brown said if Collins is out in the field and someone comes into the office and asks for a building permit, that person must wait until Collins returns.

“Garth has to be in the office a significant amount of time, just to address the people coming in,” Brown said. “With one person (code enforcement officer), he can’t be out on the streets and in the office.”

The code enforcement office takes between 12 and 40 calls a day, according to Collins. His schedule is such that he comes in at 7 a.m. and around 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m., he hits the road, visits projects, makes appointments and is back in the office at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. and remains until the office closes around 5 p.m.

Revenues come from building, plumbing, electrical and other permits, and there is no way to gauge the number of permits to be requested in any given year, according to Collins. Fines issued are minimal and the city has to be careful about issuing fines, as they can be challenged in court, he said.

In response to a question about possibly sharing a code enforcement officer, Collins said one has to be careful.

Ordinances vary among towns and a code enforcement officer in one town may require someone to get costly architectural and engineering drawings for a proposed home addition, for instance, whereas another code enforcement officer might require none of that.

Heck, meanwhile, reiterated that when a code enforcement officer can’t take a day or two off, it’s a bad situation.

“We need to figure out some options here,” she said.

Councilors are considering a proposed $17.1 million municipal budget for 2013-14. The proposed school budget is $20.1 million.

City Planner Ann Beverage presented a proposed $88,800 budget for 2013-14; it represents a decrease from the current $91,300 budget. The reason for the decrease is that the city this year hired Bill Najpauer to facilitate a series of comprehensive plan meetings which will not be funded in the proposed budget.

“Well, can’t argue with a reduction, can we?” O’Donnell said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

 

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