City codes officer calls it quits

By Tom Joyce -
Beamer -

Mount Airy is back to Square One concerning its building codes-enforcement program, due to the impending departure of Bill Beamer.

Beamer, who became the municipality’s codes officer last August on a part-time basis, has tendered his resignation effective at the end of June, according to City Manager Barbara Jones.

“Bill has been great to work with and has graciously offered to assist in any way possible for a smooth transition,” Jones added.

Beamer, son of the late Maynard Beamer, a longtime mayor of the city, took the codes position in the wake of minimum housing conditions, nuisance properties and other problems becoming controversial issues in Mount Airy in recent years.

Before Beamer’s appointment last summer, city codes functions were handled through Benchmark CMR Inc., a Charlotte-based firm that has provided planning-related services to the city government since 2011, when officials decided to privatize those tasks.

This included Benchmark employee Steve May being assigned to Mount Airy two days per week, with a minimum of one day per month conducting a field review for violations.

The effectiveness of that level of enforcement came into question, leading to a vote by the city commissioners in May 2017 to hire a locally based codes officer and remove that function from Mount Airy’s contract with Benchmark.

Beamer subsequently was tasked with investigating violations associated with minimum housing, abandoned structures, abandoned property, tall grass and weeds, trash, debris, junk vehicles and other nuisance issues.

But his presence also was met with dissatisfaction among some members of the city council.

This came to a head during a meeting on May 17, when the board of commissioners adopted — at Beamer’s urging — the International Property Maintenance Code. It is a model set of guidelines embraced by other North Carolina cities which regulates minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings, both residential and commercial.

Along with adding commercial buildings to the realm of enforcement, Beamer believed the code would streamline Mount Airy’s codes-enforcement process overall, including replacing ineffective measures in the city’s existing rules.

Though the commissioners approved the adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code, it came through a 3-2 vote that was accompanied by the dissenting board members clashing with Beamer at the May 17 meeting.

Commissioner Jon Cawley then called the International Property Maintenance Code an example of “government overreach” and questioned a previous contention by Beamer that building codes exist to protect property values rather than benefiting occupants of rental properties or the poor.

There were also concerns that the code would lead to codes enforcement becoming a full-time function instead of the 20-hour-per-week situation now existing.

Jones, the city manager, says the municipal budget proposed for the next fiscal year beginning on July 1 does not include funding to expand the city codes operation, in which Beamer has worked under the supervision of Police Chief Dale Watson.

Beamer could not be reached for comment about his reasons for resigning.

At last report, the city manager was planning to meet with Chief Watson to discuss the next move with codes enforcement.

“I would like to evaluate how other municipalities manage it and then proceed with hiring this part-time position,” the city manager advised.


By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.