City commission discusses concerns with code reports

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — After honoring the City Park Santa Claus Tuesday evening during a meeting with the Gallipolis City Commission, commissioners and officials discussed the nature of reports of city code enforcement and how those might be given in the future.

“(Commissioner) Beau (Sang) wanted to talk about the code enforcement officer,” said City Manager Gene Greene. “I don’t think a lot of people really realize what the office does. I’m going to start with someone got the bright idea a few years ago to combine the code and the (recreation office), which we all know doesn’t work. At that time, the code department had six employees, two that did mowing all summer and that was charged to the property owner’s taxes. They had a clerk and someone who helped writing permits. Today, we have a part-time code officer and so far this year he’s written 40 letters and last year, off the new ordinance, there have been four properties that changed ownerships that have been remodeled, two paid the fee for vacant buildings, one sold to a new owner, (recorded) nine vacant property violations. Twenty (are still) vacant, some are still up for sale. Some of these didn’t pay the fees so the fees will double. Four (were recorded) for demolition.”

Among some of Code Enforcement Officer Brett Bostic’s duties, according to Greene, are to check grease traps, write permits, meet with contractors, check structures, handle zoning concerns, write property violations, review signs for new signs, fences and swimming pools, plus taking care of recreational matters with children throughout the city.

“So, what are we going to cut?” asked Greene.

“Well, what I was asking you (a few days ago),” said Sang, “I’m just asking for a report. I’m interested to see how many citations or infractions he’s issuing and how many building permits are issued and things like that, like a status. It doesn’t have to be every meeting but maybe once a month, the first meeting of the month, to kind of have a report like of code enforcement activities. The main driving force behind the request was with the adoption of the new (code guidelines), I’m interested to see if we’re actually enforcing it.”

Greene replied he felt the code was being enforced.

“If I give you project updates and I do the commission meeting report and I do a (recreation) report, I don’t have time to get outside and do anything else,” said Greene. “I’ll give you the highlights but I’m not going into detail.”

Sang suggested it might be something where Bostic may provide a “snapshot” of his activities over the previous month. Bostic was not present for the meeting.

“If you’re ready for it, maybe we can cut out some of the (recreation duties) and let him do full-time code,” said Greene. “I’d like to have a full-time code officer.”

Greene said that in previous meetings, the commission stated it was its job to bring more money into the city.

“You bring me the money, I’ll bring you a full-time code officer,” said Greene.

“I’m asking for a report of what he’s doing,” said Sang. “I think you’re probably right. We need a full-time code officer, if you feel like he’s not doing the job.”

“He is doing the job in what he has time to do,” said Greene.

Greene cited cuts in youth baseball the previous year as attempting to meet budget needs. Concerned individuals in the public donated private money to continue maintaining those programs.

“I feel like my (proposed request) is being twisted in what I’m asking for,” said Sang. “All I was looking for is a snapshot of what (the code office) is doing.”

Greene challenged that was something he was already providing. Sang asked then “What’s the problem?” Greene said he did not feel he had the time to provide a more in-depth report every meeting. The city manager said he did not have time to follow the code officer around.

Greene asked what the other commissioners thought. Commissioner Tony Gallagher said he felt he understood Sang’s point, but with a part-time code officer, they could not accomplish some things. Gallagher expressed that Greene worked for the commission and when commissioners had a concern they expressed it to him to have it addressed.

Sang said he, again, felt he was being misunderstood and maybe he might not have presented it in a way Greene understood.

“All I’m asking for is a snapshot of what (code enforcement) is doing each month just so we can kind of see about the infractions and the different citations he’s issuing to property owners. That was the main driving force, regarding the property with the new resolution we adopted,” said Sang. “I’m not asking to cut recreation activities. I don’t want that. I think that it would take a 30 second conversation between you (Greene) and Brett (Bostic, code officer) and say ‘Can you give me a one page summary of this many permits were issued, this many citations were given.’ I don’t need a detailed or hoping for a detailed breakdown of his activities. Just want a snapshot of what the code enforcement officer is doing.”

“I get stopped in the street all the time about specific properties around town saying ‘Hey, can you guys do something about this?’,” said Sang. “Well, we have the tools to do it in place.”

“And that’s why I’m trying to educate you to it of what the code officer does and what time he has to do it,” said Greene. “You have no idea what he does. The only thing you can hear is your friends complaining about is because this building doesn’t have windows or this building has trash around it. Now, one other thing we can do, which is what (Bostic) is doing. He’s writing violations and we can get them to court.”

Greene said the city solicitor could tell the commission that once a matter went to court, the city had no control over how a jury or judge may act. Greene said he felt Bostic was doing all he could do.

“That’s great,” said Sang. “If you feel he’s doing his job, I mean you’re the city manager. Ultimately, his performance is a reflection on you as a manager.”

Sang said he wasn’t trying to micromanage or question Bostic’s work ethic. He said he wanted a simple report to see how new code laws were “working out.” Greene said he felt he was providing that. Sang said he understood that it may take some time to accomplish certain goals with the code enforcement office and that things would change with new laws.

“In some cases it will and in some cases I can take you and show you back before you were practically out of training pants,” said Greene to Sang, “that there are cases going on we’ve not solved yet and the county tried for years and it didn’t work.”

Sang expressed he felt “a snapshot” of the code office should not be that difficult and that the conversation had become more than what was intended. He didn’t want to put more work on the office but to know more about it. He felt Greene was being “very defensive” and that Greene did a good job but that he was asking a simple request for the “snapshot” report.

Commissioner Steven Wallis said he understood both sides, but noted that while the commission had tried to bring more money into the town budgets, he felt the conversation was indicative of the need of revenue for the municipality. Sang at one point expressed he felt the conversation surrounding the code office had gone on longer than necessary and could have been a 30 second endeavor. He said he was not trying to make the office’s job harder.

Greene at one point expressed he felt that Sang didn’t understand and Sang replied he was tired of people telling him that he didn’t understand.

Greene said he would give highlights and the commission took no further action.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext 2103.

By Dean Wright