City still lacking codes enforcer

By Tom Joyce -

The city of Mount Airy is still without a building codes enforcement officer, since the June 30 resignation of the person who filled that post dealing with minimum-housing, lot-nuisance and related issues.

Bill Beamer, the son of late Mayor Maynard Beamer, resigned less than a year after being appointed as codes officer in August 2017.

This was the latest development in an effort by city officials in recent years to address problems with substandard housing posing safety hazards. Codes enforcement tasks had been handled through Benchmark CMR Inc., a Charlotte-based firm that has provided planning-related services to the city government since Mount Airy officials privatized those tasks in 2011.

This arrangement involved someone from out of town being assigned to Mount Airy two days per week, which was not considered adequate to meet the need. This led to the codes function being dropped from Benchmark’s services and last summer’s appointment of a locally based person, Beamer, which city commissioners deemed more effective.

Beamer, whose schedule was 20 hours per week, gave no reasons publicly for resigning effective at the end of the last fiscal year on June 30. He had clashed with some council members during a meeting in May regarding Mount Airy’s adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code aimed at streamlining the local enforcement process.

City Manager Barbara Jones also declined to comment on Beamer’s departure due to a personnel issue being involved. She did say that he was “great to work with” and also offered to assist in ensuring a smooth transition.

Jones has said she would explore various options for providing codes enforcement in town with Police Chief Dale Watson, who began supervising that function with Beamer’s appointment.

However, no decision has been made, according to Watson.

“We’re still looking at the different ways in which we can fill that position in the manner that it should be filled,” the police chief said Wednesday afternoon, describing the process as deliberate.

“Because it’s an important position and it takes the right individual to be able to fill that void,” Watson explained regarding codes enforcement.

Beamer is a licensed general contractor whose background when he came into the job also included home inspections, banking and public relations.

In addition, the enforcement task has proven controversial in recent years, including disagreements among the commissioners about limiting it to health and safety issues and not appearance.

And this spring’s 3-2 adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code backed by Beamer was viewed by some as government overreach to the detriment of private ownership rights.

Any new codes enforcer hired will be faced with extra responsibilities due to those guidelines covering violations at commercial buildings and not just residential structures, which has been the case in the past.

There has been talk about expanding codes enforcement to a full-time position, at a cost of around $51,000 annually, but there are no plans for taking this step.

“Whichever method we choose to fill the void will still be done on a part-time basis,” Watson said.

Codes enforcement also is expected to continue as a function within the police department.

The option of arranging to have Surry County building inspection personnel take on services in the municipality also has been suggested.

Until a decision is made, Watson said lot-nuisance, minimum-housing and other complaints are being handled by the police department.

He indicated that sufficient time will be devoted to the process, as opposed to rushing to fill the position, to ensure a situation that reflects the best interests of local citizens.

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.