Pasco has one less code enforcement officer now than it did in 2006 -- when the city had about 15,000 fewer residents.
City Manager Gary Crutchfield told the city council during a workshop Monday that it may be time to consider putting another officer on duty to respond to complaints about noise, garbage piled up in yards and buildings falling into disrepair.
The idea to hire another code enforcement officer was part of a presentation given by Rick White, the city's community and economic development director, about declining approval ratings in how the city handles code enforcement.
The city conducts a citizens survey once every two years, and the percentage of people who rate the city's handling of code enforcement as "good" or "excellent" has declined during the past three surveys, White said.
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Residents also have been downgrading the city's ratings on animal control over that time.
The city did another survey in June to get more information about why residents are dissatisfied with code enforcement. In that survey, 47 percent of the people who responded rated the city "fair" or "poor" while 52 percent rated the city "good" or "excellent," White said.
"About half of those who responded believed there was either inadequate or not apparent code enforcement," he said. "Those who were dissatisfied believed there were properties apparent that needed code enforcement and didn't have it."
Junk vehicles, garbage or debris on lawns and lack of maintenance for buildings topped the list of code enforcement concerns, White said.
His report on the survey offered the council three options for trying to improve code enforcement, including reducing weekend patrols during which city employees check for proper dust control at construction sites and new developments; reassigning the officer dedicated solely to rental inspections to code enforcement and then dividing up rental inspections and code enforcement among the three existing officers by geography within the city; and hiring a fourth officer to help with code enforcement complaints.
Crutchfield advocated the latter option, which would cost about $50,000 per year.
"As the numbers indicate and surveys indicate, we probably need to look at restoring that position," Crutchfield said.
Mayor Matt Watkins said based on the survey numbers and citizen comments, he would be willing to consider hiring a fourth officer.
"I think we are seeing the effect of population growth and also an increase in activity," Watkins said.
Councilmen Saul Martinez and Bob Hoffmann said they liked the proposals for redistribution of duties and reducing dust control patrols.
"I think we should pursue those options first and see how we do before pursuing option three," Hoffmann said.
Crutchfield said he would have the city staff prepare some financial scenarios for increased code enforcement as part of the 2013 budget, which will be presented to the council this fall.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org