County administrator to weigh in on Code Enforcement overtime hours

Sarasota County’s two noise-related ordinances to sunset Nov. 18

A Sarasota County department chief promised Siesta Village merchants this week that they would be informed of any Code Enforcement staffing changes in the Village before those changes took place. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Because the Sarasota County Commission has not authorized the hiring of additional Code Enforcement Office employees, staff will discuss with County Administrator Randall Reid how to proceed with overtime hours to handle issues such as enforcing the noise ordinance on Siesta Key, Rob Lewis, the county’s director of planning and development services, told members of the Siesta Key Village Association on Aug. 7.

At the same time, staff will be seeking a two-year extension of both the noise ordinance and the county’s sound and air pollution ordinance. Both are scheduled to sunset on Nov. 18, Jon Mast, general manager of business center operations in the Planning and Development Services Office, told The Sarasota News Leader.

Lewis said he hoped to bring the matter before the County Commission later this month or in September.

He added that that would ensure ample time for public comments on the ordinances before any long-term extensions were approved.

Additionally, Lewis cautioned the 20 SKVA members attending the regular meeting that he did not know whether the County Commission ultimately would make any changes in the existing ordinances.

His primary concern at this point, he added, was maintaining the status quo and giving everyone with an interest in the ordinances a chance to address them in public meetings and hearings.

The county will provide “lots of opportunity for involvement,” Lewis said.

In response to a query from the News Leader, Mast obtained an explanation of the two ordinances from Donna Thompson, the county’s assistant zoning administrator.

Two articles in Chapter 54 of the county’s zoning code relate to noise, Thompson wrote in an Aug. 7 email. Article V is the one that covers air and sound pollution; it also sets out allowable decibel levels for noise, how noise is to be measured and how the ordinance is to be enforced by Code Enforcement staff, she wrote.

Article VI relates to disturbing the peace and is enforced by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, she added.

Mast had scheduled a meeting Aug. 10 with Sandra Jones, head of the Code Enforcement Office, to discuss putting together a flyer the county could distribute to anyone interested in an explanation of the noise ordinances, he told the News Leader. “It may take a little bit [of time] to get that flyer prepared,” he added, but “I sure would like to have that.”

A flyer would make it easier for someone to understand the issues the County Commission will be addressing, Mast said.

At Lewis’ suggestion, SKVA President Russell Matthes scheduled Lewis to appear before the group again in October, to provide an update on the status of the ordinances.

Regarding the code enforcement issue: Lewis said that if the County Commission does agree to overtime for personnel in that department, he would make sure anyone working after hours and on weekends on Siesta Key “is very well-versed in the issues in the Village.”

Matthes agreed that that was a matter of concern to the group.

“There’s a uniqueness about Siesta Village in particular, and Siesta Key,” Lewis said.

For example, Lewis noted, a few of the restaurants in the Village have special exceptions related to the noise ordinance.

Moreover, Lewis said, “Communication will be important with this group [and] with the [Sheriff’s Office] deputies, of course.”

He added, “If we move in the direction of using overtime … for after hours, I can make sure this group is well aware of what we intend to do before we do it.”

Perhaps, Lewis said, he even could Sandra Jones from the Code Enforcement Office address the plans during a regular SKVA meeting.

When Lourdes Ramirez, a Siesta resident and president of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations, asked whether Code Enforcement was fully staffed, Lewis replied that one of the officers might be going out on medical leave soon, while another was considering retirement. Lewis said he wanted to make sure he kept the number of people on staff allowed by the county budget.

During the County Commission’s June 13 work session, Lewis said a new full-time code enforcement officer, with salary and benefits, would cost the county $70,029 a year.

In early July, Reid provided the commissioners with a memo from Lewis saying the estimated cost of one part-time position would be $55,155 per year if the person worked 30 hours a week; the cost would decline to $38,355 if the person worked 20 hours a week.

Those figures included benefits, the lease of a vehicle for the officer and the cost of a laptop computer, a cell phone and uniforms.

If the commission chose to authorize a Code Enforcement officer to put in 20 hours of week in overtime, the cost would be $29,000.