Brinkley presses for codes enforcement action

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@mtairynews.com
Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson fields questions from Commissioner Shirley Brinkley about the status of codes enforcement in the city since the June resignation of an employee who had that responsibility. -

A process to remedy a situation in which Mount Airy now has no designated codes officer to handle minimum housing and other complaints is continuing.

However, it’s not going fast enough to suit one city commissioner, based on discussion at a recent meeting.

Mount Airy has had no codes enforcement officer since June 30, when Bill Beamer resigned. Beamer had occupied that position on a part-time basis since last summer.

His duties included investigating violations associated with minimum housing conditions, abandoned structures, abandoned property, tall grass and weeds, trash, debris, junk vehicles and other nuisances.

The lack of a designated enforcer over the past couple of months has led to problems, in the view of Commissioner Shirley Brinkley.

When the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last met on Aug. 16, the agenda included a discussion of the vacant position at the urging of Brinkley, who asked for a progress report on the matter.

She cited locations around town that need attention, apparently in reference to overgrown lots, mentioning that conditions weren’t looking too good on some streets.

Brinkley, who has been a proponent of strong codes enforcement during her time as commissioner, asked what was being done to handle such issues in the absence of a designated individual to do so.

“We do have a codes enforcement officer — it’s yours truly right now,” responded Police Chief Dale Watson, under whose supervision Beamer worked.

Watson has said that various options were being explored for codes enforcement.

The police chief reiterated that at the board meeting, saying he was filling the role on an interim basis until a longer-term solution could be found.

Despite operating on a complaint-driven basis, rather than proactively, Watson said codes functions are taking up quite a bit of his time — about 25 percent of each work day.

Complaints about overgrown lots have been the most prevalent problem. “And we are dealing with them as they arise,” the police chief said Friday of police department personnel.

They have not been bombarded with minimum housing-related calls. “Thankfully, we haven’t,” he added.

Only about two such complaints have been fielded so far.

Codes enforcement has been a major focus of city board members in recent years — particularly violations posing safety or health risks.

Watson said at the meeting that the “most advantageous” option is establishing some partnership arrangement with the Surry County government to have its building inspection personnel take over minimum housing codes enforcement in the city.

“They’re evaluating their ability to be able to do that right now,” City Manager Barbara Jones said, including the costs that would be involved.

Brinkley suggested having a county codes enforcement officer assigned to Mount Airy on a trial basis to determine the feasibility of that option.

She pointed out that one obstacle could be Mount Airy’s adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code earlier this year, at the urging of Beamer.

It is a model set of guidelines also used by other North Carolina cities which regulates minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings, both residential and commercial.

Surry County has not embraced the International Property Maintenance Code, and Brinkley wondered if that could have a negative bearing on partnering with Mount Airy.

“They are not operating under that, so it might have an impact,” Jones replied.

Chief Watson indicated Friday that much effort is being devoted to identifying a long-term solution for the codes function as soon as possible.

Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson fields questions from Commissioner Shirley Brinkley about the status of codes enforcement in the city since the June resignation of an employee who had that responsibility.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Code-this.jpgMount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson fields questions from Commissioner Shirley Brinkley about the status of codes enforcement in the city since the June resignation of an employee who had that responsibility.

By Tom Joyce

tjoyce@mtairynews.com

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.