HALLOWELL — Dick Dolby joked that he was going to charge the city double for his services as interim code enforcement officer when he was introduced to the City Council in June.

Hallowell is having a hard time finding someone for the permanent position.

“We (code enforcement officers) are getting older, and there’s not a lot of young people getting into this,” Dolby said during Thursday’s meeting of the personnel and policy committee.

Nate Rudy, who became the permanent city manager in June after the unexpected death of Stefan Pakulski in March, said the city is having a difficult time finding the right person to serve as the city’s permanent code enforcement officer because of a dearth of applicants that have both field experience and state certifications.

“I think the major factor is there is a scarcity of qualified individuals who can do the job,” Rudy said by phone Tuesday morning. The position isn’t an entry-level job, and a code enforcement officer must have certain certifications along with training and experience.

Rudy said it’s important that Hallowell find someone who is able to “hit the ground running” because of the myriad city projects coming down the pike, including the redevelopment of the Stevens School campus and the Water Street reconstruction.

“We’d really like to have somebody who can come in and participate and be a contributing member of the city’s team from the beginning,” he said. “We want to do our best to make sure the city’s values and interests are protected.”

Rudy and the personnel and public policy committee have had discussions about what the city could do to attract more candidates, and one of the things discussed is packaging the code enforcement position with other responsibilities within the municipal government, like city planning.

But Dolby said he believes code enforcing is a “standalone position” and said he “never touched the word ‘planning'” in his 20-plus years as the director of code enforcement for the City of Augusta.

“Planning and code enforcement are related, but they’re not that related,” he said.

Councilor Kate DuFour, the committee’s chairwoman, said municipal employee recruitment is tough in general, but it’s an added challenge when you factor in the layer of expertise required to be a code enforcement officer. She isn’t sure what is turning people off, and she thinks there aren’t as many people looking into municipal government as a career, which she considers a significant statewide problem.

“It has to be about the experience,” DuFour said. “We may have to package the position so it could attract somebody who’s interested in not just code enforcement, but also in planning and ordinance development and overseeing some of the larger projects that are coming into the city.”

Rudy and DuFour agree that being a code enforcement officer isn’t a job for everyone. The officer is often painted as the resident bad guy because he or she sometimes has to tell people they can’t build a porch or have to stop working on a project.

“There are people who were born to be CEOs, and they love those confrontations,” DuFour said. “But those people are fewer and far between.”

Right now, the job is listed as a part-time position on Hallowell’s website, and the five-page job description spells out the duties and expectations for the officer, but it doesn’t specify the salary. Rudy said he doesn’t think Hallowell needs a full-time code enforcement officer, and Dolby agreed.

During its meeting Thursday evening, the personnel and public policy committee sought advice from Dolby about how to attract more qualified and experienced candidates to the position.

Dolby has been flexible in giving Hallowell time to find the right person for the code enforcement position, Rudy said, and the city hopes Dolby continues to serve until it finds a suitable, long-term officer.

Dolby said his certifications expire in 2025, but he doesn’t want Rudy and Hallowell to get any ideas.

Rudy said finding a permanent code enforcement officer is a priority, though he admitted there is no real deadline to do so. He definitely hopes to find the right candidate to make a long-term commitment sooner rather than later, because it takes time to get to know the community and the buildings that make up the physical environment of the city.

“There are several dozen city projects that are really important to the future of Hallowell,” Rudy said, “and we want to make sure we’re doing our best to work with the developers and state agencies involved.”

Rudy, who is also a licensed real estate agent, said Maine is experiencing a shortage in the real estate industry as well with a dearth of appraisers, especially in central Maine.

He said the shortage speaks to a greater challenge facing municipalities. “We need to figure out how to effectively engage younger citizens to participate in local government,” Rudy said. “We need to do more to involve younger constituents so they can see themselves as potential municipal employees.”

However, Brianne Hasty, code enforcement training coordinator for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said she’s certified more than 70 individuals statewide since the start of the year. There are currently 473 certified code enforcement officers in Maine, and she said data from recent years doesn’t fluctuate much.

For perspective, Augusta’s code enforcement office issued 340 permits last year and its two code enforcement officers performed more than 1,000 permit-related inspections in 2015, according to Matt Nazar, the capital city’s director of development services.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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