Tyrone's new Town Manager Kyle Hood participated in his first council retreat on Friday, and among his ideas for 2013, he suggested that Tyrone look into hiring a part time Code Enforcement Officer. Hood said this could not only improve the enforcement of town ordinances, but would also free up other town employees to focus on their primary duties.
Ideally, the town would hire a sworn peace officer, particularly so that he/she could serve as a bailiff on court days. Hood says court days currently take two police officers out of their normal duties such as patrolling or investigation. Tyrone previously employed a Code Enforcement Officer, but the position was eliminated for budgetary reasons.
In addition to keeping police doing police work, Hood said this could alleviate many of the code enforcement responsibilities that currently come to other town government entities, such as the town clerk or public works department. Hood said in his time on the job, he has observed a failure to "fully address code enforcement in previous years which has added to a backlog of work related to the enforcement of codes."
Many of the codes in question have to do with the "aesthetic" of the town, Hood said, including improper structures and overgrown grass. He also pointed to business licensing in particular, saying that the collection of business license fees has been poorly enforced, placing an unfair burden on those businesses that dutifully pay those fees.
Police Chief Brandon Perkins said that Code Enforcement Officers are often retired law enforcement or active law enforcement seeking additional work. He said Tyrone's Code Enforcement Officer was a retired sheriff's deputy.
"In his capacity, he worked for me but was not a sworn police. He would come in a few days a week, answer complaints that were received, and when he was out would look for other violations, which is something we're not really doing right now," Perkins said.
Having a person solely devoted to code enforcement would have other benefits aside from improved code compliance, according to Perkins.
"We need to separate the Police Department Patrol guys from Code Enforcement Patrol. When people see a police car come in their neighborhood they need to know we're there to keep them safe, not think 'I know they're there for that purpose but they could also pull up and write me a ticket for tall grass,'" Perkins said.
Perkins said a Code Enforcement Officer would not be uniformed and would drive an unmarked vehicle. The benefit of having a certified member of law enforcement in the role would be a familiarity with the court system, and experience in handling conflict.
Hood said the town received over 135 complaints unrelated to public safety in just the final three months of 2012. Adding in complaints directed to the police department, he said the figure came in over 200.
Most council retreat agenda items are meant as a preliminary discussion, so no action was taken. Council asked Hood to come back with a cost estimate before a final decision would be made.