Code violations exist in numerous places in Lake County, both in and outside city limits, from noxious weeds, to garbage, to junk appliances and vehicles littering properties. But with a small staff who already have a slate of other responsibilities, getting residents to clean up such issues has been an ongoing challenge.
Logistics were discussed between the Town of Lakeview and Lake County for hiring an ordinance enforcement officer — something that has been proposed several times in recent years — at the Lakeview Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
The Lakeview Town Council will hold a work session on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 4 p.m. in the Lakeview Town Hall to further discuss the matter.
Lake County Commissioner Mark Albertson attended the Feb. 9 Council meeting and spoke on behalf of the Lake County Board of Commissioners.
Albertson is recommending that the County and Town follow the model that Bend uses in both drafting a common nuisance ordinance and in enforcement. Under Bend’s model, if people do not respond to an abatement notice in a timely fashion then citations can be issued and the matter is put before the circuit court.
“Neither the County nor the Town can afford an ordinance officer on their own, which is why the best way forward is to team up,” said Albertson.
He said the County and the Town could split the costs of the position 50/50, including benefits. He proposed the Town use the franchise tax fees it receives from cable television and Lakeview Sanitation Services to fund its portion, while the County will pay for it through general fund and eventually fees that are leveled against properties that are out of compliance.
Albertson told the Council that having an ordinance officer, who would work in the County building department, is important. Not only would it improve the safety of residents across the County it would also help with properties that are blights in the different communities.
“Right now our ordinance has no teeth, and is ineffective if we do not have an ordinance officer to enforce the rules,” said Albertson.
The Council members made supportive comments toward Albertson’s proposal, though both the Town and County having different ordinances for nuisance properties on the books. A work session is to be held to begin working on harmonizing the ordinances and how to fund the position.
Prior to the Town Council meeting, the Board of Commissioners heard from Building Official/Inspector Ken Cooper and Asst. Building Dir. Jennifer Stephens about ideas for successfully curtailing nuisance and code enforcement issues.
Commissioner Mark Albertson candidly noted, “The way we’re doing it right now doesn’t work very well.” If a code enforcement issues is identified, the County sends a certified letter, but the letter’s recipient can deny it, Stephens explained. If the person refuses the letter, it comes back to the County and simply sits in a file, she said.
In that case, the next step is to get the Commissioners involved or to take the steps to abate the nuisance. “But when we don’t have anybody to abate it, why keep moving forward?” Stephens asked the Commissioners. In order to carry out abatement, the County must find a contractor who is bonded at a high enough rate to go onto the property and deal with the issue. Then the contractor must be paid, and significant issues can be quite costly, especially when there are vehicles or other large equipment present.
Cooper said the County should hire a nuisance and code enforcement officer to deal with problem properties as both he and Stephens already have their hands full with myriad responsibilities. Stephens said she currently fields 35-40 calls every day in addition to dealing with building and septic permits and does not have enough time to devote to the nuisance issues, especially as they will require a significant amount of work.
Cooper also suggested that the County have a specific phone number set up for people to report nuisances and code violations so the Commissioners do not have to be dealing with such complaints.
One issue that will have to be reconciled for the nuisance position is what to do with dogs on the loose, which was one of the sticking points, between the Town and the County. There is no official dog pound in the community to take in nuisance dogs, and the question becomes how does the ordinance officer handle animals and where would they be kept.
Watch coverage of the Lakeview Town Council on the Examiner’s Facebook and YouTube pages.