Pointing out that code enforcement complaints after hours and on weekends aren’t just noise-related, the Sarasota County Commission this week unanimously approved inclusion of overtime hours in the next fiscal year budget for officers to handle those complaints.
At the recommendation of County Administrator Randall Reid, the commission agreed to $21,060 for a Code Enforcement officer to work an extra 10 to 15 hours per week .
A memo to the board from Rob Lewis, director of planning and development services, says he has identified a current Code Enforcement employee “who has experience in sound.”
Kevin P. Burns, the memo says, served as a signals analyst with U.S. Army Military Intelligence.
In his memo, Lewis indicated the overtime could commence right away, writing of Burns, “This Officer can be assigned overtime in the existing [Fiscal Year]12 budget … at an estimated cost of $2,025” for 10 to 15 hours a week.
“I certainly don’t think we’ll have someone out every weekend,” Reid said.
“I think it’s a reasonable compromise,” Commissioner Nora Patterson said in making the motion for the FY13 funding. “It’s like speeding, where every once in a while you have to rattle someone’s cage to let people know you really do want some cooperation,” she said.
Siesta Key residents’ complaints about noise had spurred the commission’s discussions about how best to approach the Code Enforcement issue, but Reid pointed out, “We have problems in other locations.”
Lewis told the board he would provide Reid with “monthly or periodic updates on the Code Enforcement activities after hours … and the actions we took.”
“That would be great,” both Chairwoman Christine Robinson and Commissioner Joe Barbetta said.
“I think it’s a great solution,” Robinson said, “without committing the extra [full-time equivalent staff position] to it.”
In fact, Robinson said, after the officer has been working those post-5 p.m. weekday hours and weekends for a while, the overtime no longer might be needed. “This will allow us to test the waters,” she added.
“One of the things you find with this sort of code enforcement,” Commissioner Jon Thaxton said, is that “self-governance starts to kick in. They know someone’s watching and there is a chance they may get themselves in hot water.”
Barbetta pointed out that noise problems have been reported in the Gulf Gate area as well as on Siesta Key. “I just want to make sure it’s understood by the people on Siesta Key that this isn’t a dedicated person to them for noise.”
Siesta Key Association President Catherine Luckner told The Sarasota News Leader in an interview after the vote, “We did not ask for someone to give us a full-time Code Enforcement officer.”
She added that she also did not want the organization to be seen as interested only in noise enforcement.
Luckner told the News Leader she was disappointed the commission did not seek an analysis of whether the code enforcement issues could be handled by allowing employees to work flexible time, for example.
The SKA had sent the commission a letter last week asking for such an analysis before it made a decision on overtime for the Code Enforcement office.
“This is what the county is not willing to assess,” Luckner said. “We’re just trying to be good business-minded people,” she added, pointing out that businesses allow “flex time” for employees to increase efficiency.
However, she did agree with the commissioners’ and Reid’s comments regarding code violations other than noise.
Just recently, she said, a construction crew had been working on a house in her neighborhood after hours — usually until almost 9 p.m. When she investigated the situation, she said, she discovered a demolition permit had been issued for the house, but the workers were putting up new concrete block.
The structure subsequently collapsed, she said, “and now the place is left in total disrepair.”
Most residents who see that type of work after normal hours, Luckner said, “don’t know who to call or they just give up” trying to find someone from the county to handle the situation.
During his remarks on Aug. 22, Reid referred to “other unpleasant … activities” after hours that required Code Enforcement attention.
Robinson also commented on after-hours building activities in South County.
Reid also said staff would continue to work with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on enforcement issues.
Deputies have been handling noise complaints after hours in Siesta Village.
However, Reid added, “I would point out that noise issues typically don’t place highly in the court structure.”
He said he hoped county staff would be able to use education as well as enforcement to deal with problems around the county.