SKA seeks evaluation of Code Enforcement Office’s staffing patterns

The Siesta Key Association supports Siesta Village businesses, President Catherine Luckner says, but it also wants county ordinances enforced.

The Siesta Key Association Board of Directors has asked the Sarasota County Commission to authorize an evaluation of staffing patterns in the county’s Code Enforcement Office before any decision is made about overtime hours for any employees in that office.

In an Aug. 14 letter to the commission, the SKA board wrote, “The staffing practice and work hours for Code Enforcement Officers presently do not provide regular coverage or service during the night or weekend hours. This practice leaves vulnerable one of the most significant enforcement time periods.”

The SKA letter adds, “Many of our County ordinances were written specifically using nighttime hours and weekend regulations as criteria for violations. Such ordinances include those governing the building code, signs, sound and noise, parking and special events for which Temporary Use Permits are granted.”

In response to the letter, commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson has asked County Administrator Randall Reid to provide the board with an update on Code Enforcement overtime as part of the board’s regular meeting in Sarasota on Aug. 21.

Reid confirmed in an email to Robinson on Aug. 15 that he would do so.

During the Siesta Key Village Association regular meeting on Aug. 7, Rob Lewis, the county’s director of planning and development services, said he and his staff were seeking guidance from Reid on how to proceed with Code Enforcement overtime in Siesta Village to handle complaints, especially about violations of the county’s noise ordinance.

The SKA earlier this summer had sought extra Code Enforcement manpower. However, members of the SKVA have said they would prefer to police themselves in working to reduce the number of complaints.

SKA President Catherine Luckner and Vice President Peter van Roekens met with Reid in early July to discuss their concerns.

Van Roekens works with the Village Association as a representative of both the SKA and the Terrace East condominium complex in Siesta Village.

During a June 13 budget workshop, the County Commission did not indicate a willingness to hire extra Code Enforcement staff. Lewis told the board that day that the cost of a new employee for the office, with full benefits, would be $70,029 a year.

In early July, Reid notified the commissioners that 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 equipment and uniforms.

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

In an interview with The Sarasota News Leader on Aug. 14, Luckner said the SKA board did not want its letter to be taken as a sign of opposition to the businesses in Siesta Village. “We do want the county to enforce the ordinances as they exist,” she added. “We’re not asking for anything more than this.”

She said she had sent copies of the letter to Russell Matthes, president of the Village Association, and to Mark Smith, chairman of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, and Kevin Cooper, the chamber’s executive director.

Luckner said the SKA board members decided to seek the staffing assessment because they had concerns about Code Enforcement officers being asked to put in overtime. “There’s ways to manage this,” she said, “where nobody should have to [handle] a 70-hour work week.”

Industries have best practices regarding rotation of staff and flexible employee hours, she pointed out.

The letter says, “We are aware that overtime has been suggested to supplement the gap in services. Without an accurate assessment of staffing patterns that would guide the direction of work assignments, it’s unknown what impact this might have on the existing staff.”

It adds, “Utilizing staffing metrics and process evaluation, a case might be made for staffing to provide the quality service expected within our community. We assume the County has such a method and are requesting such an evaluation process be applied to this staffing issue.”

Luckner pointed out that code enforcement issues can happen at any time of the day, any day of the week. The board’s hope, she said, is that the county will pursue “a thoughtful appraisal [of staffing] and come up with something that serves the needs of the community. … We do expect the commissioners … to find a way to staff [Code Enforcement] properly.”

The letter concludes, “If Code Enforcement staff provides service during the most significant enforcement periods, this will reduce complaints, illegal activity and enhance the experience of residents, business and visitors.”