Pierce County combines code enforcement programs

Pierce County officials announced today they have consolidated code enforcement functions in a pilot project to increase service, eliminate redundancy and achieve budget efficiencies.

Under a new arrangement, code enforcement officers and support staff from the Public Works and Utilities department and the Planning and Land Services department will work as one team. The new program went into effect July 27. Code enforcement officers investigate complaints and assist property owners in the resolution of nuisance issues such as abandoned vehicles, illegal dumping, illegally occupied recreational vehicles, and development regulation violations. Combining the two programs will provide an estimated annual cost savings of $143,000 in salary and benefits by reducing the number of people needed to perform the work.

Prior to consolidation, code enforcement officers from PALS and PWU were assigned separate functions. For example, an officer responding to a junk vehicle complaint could not resolve a complaint dealing with an occupied travel trailer on the same property. The new program unifies most functions and will become part of the Pierce County Responds program.

The effectiveness of the combined operation will be monitored and measured for the remainder of 2009. In addition to the calculated annual savings, over the next two months the program will identify additional efficiencies gained through the sharing of equipment, coordinating functions with other county services, and additional economies of scale. If successful, the change could become permanent in 2010.

With the consolidation, six officers will be responsible for the full range of code enforcement services, allowing service territory sizes to be cut in half. The officers will increase their presence in specific neighborhoods and be available to interact with Land Use Advisory Commissions, neighborhood and community associations, residents, businesses and civic organizations.

Some enforcement functions will remain at PALS, including building inspections, review of home occupations and cottage industries, development engineering enforcement actions, regulation of critical areas and wetlands, and enforcement of conditional land use permits issued by the Hearing Examiner.

The new Pierce County Responds will deal with the following issues:

— Abandoned vehicles on public and private property, including roads.

— Businesses operating or expanding in unauthorized locations.

— Identification and issuance of nuisance (junk) vehicle affidavits.

— Illegal dumping on public or private property.

— Illegally-occupied recreational vehicles.

— Junk, salvage and wrecking yards.

— Littering on county-maintained roads.

— Review and issuance of temporary use permits and licenses.

— Signs on private property placed in violation of code and design standards.

— Violation of development regulations such as setbacks, shorelines, and zoning.

County residents and businesses can call the Pierce County Responds hotline at (253) 798-4636 or go to http://www.piercecountyresponds.org to report any of these complaints, including those that continue to be handled by PALS.