Beginning in January, the city will have a new department to carry out the enforcement of rental codes.
At Monday's meeting the City Council approved the budget for fiscal year 2010 in a 6-to-1 vote. Included in the over $403 million budget is $732,067 for the Office of Neighborhood Services. The newly formed entity will draw staff from the city's Volunteer Programs, Public Communications, Protective Inspections and Environmental Health divisions.
A city attorney will also be a part of the office to handle legal issues, and the city will commit a full-time police officer to work with the new department.
City Manager Bill Watkins said that the department is an efficient and cost-effective way to address the City Council’s concerns of how to deal with properties that do not comply with city health and building codes. Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said creating the office would expedite the city ordinance enforcement process and would allow the city to accomplish more with the same number of staff. Neighborhood Response Team Coordinator Bill Cantin said he sees a movement to tighten oversight of landlords, for whom it is possible to go six years between formal city inspections.
Although the entirety of the office’s responsibilities is yet to be decided, details in the proposed budget say that in addition to rental code enforcement the office will helm duties that include graffiti abatement and the neighborhood recognition program. It will also serve as a resource to help neighborhood leaders solve some problems on their own.
Is creating a Neighborhood Services Office the best way for the city to enforce rental codes?