Council confronts code enforcer cost

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@mtairynews.com
Commissioner Shirley Brinkley makes a point Thursday afternoon when city officials debated the pay scale for a new full-time codes officer in Mount Airy. Commissioner Jim Armbrister also is pictured. - Tom Joyce | The News

Nothing ever seems easy when it comes to codes enforcement in Mount Airy, and that continued Thursday afternoon when city officials debated the pay for a newly created position.

Among other tasks, the codes enforcer will investigate violations associated with minimum housing conditions, abandoned structures, abandoned property, tall grass and weeds, trash, debris, junk vehicles and other nuisances.

After deciding during its last meeting to make codes enforcement a full-time proposition — which has been handled on a part-time basis in the recent past — council members faced action Thursday on a funding level for the job.

Even though the decision approving the addition of a full-time codes officer occurred on Sept. 20, the position has not been advertised for applicants, awaiting a decision by the commissioners on the pay scale.

That was discussed Thursday afternoon, when the commissioners were faced with a proposal for an annual salary of $45,000. This figure was based on information from the North Carolina League of Municipalities showing that the average for such a position in the state in 2017 was $44,721.

The cost is higher when benefits required for the full-time status of the job are included. That’s a cost of $9,711 for the period from Nov. 1 — the date the person is expected to be hired by — to the end of this fiscal year in June.

“Which is a substantial salary,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said Thursday when looking at the bottom line.

“I feel like we’re starting this way too high,” added Brinkley, who had pushed to make the job full-time after no one applied when a part-time position was advertised for applicants.

Mount Airy has not had a codes officer since part-timer Bill Beamer resigned at the end of June, with Police Chief Dale Watson handling lot-nuisance and minimum housing complaints in the interim.

Brinkley said the proposed salary seemed steep for a new codes enforcement officer coming into the job, which is at a higher pay grade than the city’s wastewater-treatment and water-treatment plant supervisors.

However, further discussion Thursday revealed that there is some wiggle room. Based on figures from Becky McCann, city human resources director, the pay range proposed for the codes officer is $39,829 for a new hire, and it maxes out at $59,744 for a highly experienced, long-tenured employee.

The $45,000 level was selected to conform to the state average, McCann explained.

While the job description for the codes officer requires the person to possess North Carolina minimum housing certification, there seemed to be agreement among board members Thursday for seeking candidates with potential but who might lack that credential.

Commissioner Jim Armbrister said such an individual could gain the certification after being hired and subsequently become greatly qualified, as opposed to paying higher salary costs right out of the box.

Brinkley also expressed support for Armbrister’s idea of having someone with “zero qualifications” who would grow into the job.

The South Ward commissioner said she was comfortable letting City Manager Barbara Jones decide what the person will be paid based on their experience and qualifications.

Jones explained after the meeting that this guideline could lead to someone without qualifications being hired at less than $39,000 per year. But that individual must be “a good candidate,” she stressed.

“I always try to hire the best-qualified” within the pay limitations at hand, Jones said.

The board approved the salary range proposed in a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Jon Cawley dissenting. He had voted against making the codes job full-time on Sept. 20.

Also Thursday, the commissioners approved a budget amendment to provide funding for the position through the end of the next fiscal year.

The $23,025 figure involved reflects the pro-rated salary from November through the end of the fiscal year on June 30 of $30,000, weighed against the money already in this year’s budget which has been unspent since Beamer’s departure, $16,685.

Adding the benefits costs and the remaining funding needed for the salary led to the total budget adjustment of $23,025.

Commissioner Shirley Brinkley makes a point Thursday afternoon when city officials debated the pay scale for a new full-time codes officer in Mount Airy. Commissioner Jim Armbrister also is pictured.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Debate-this.jpgCommissioner Shirley Brinkley makes a point Thursday afternoon when city officials debated the pay scale for a new full-time codes officer in Mount Airy. Commissioner Jim Armbrister also is pictured. Tom Joyce | The News

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.