Minutes after passing the city’s budget Monday night, the Covington City Council voted 4-3 to add a new code-enforcement officer to the planning and zoning department to ensure dilapidated homes and lots where homes were demolished avoid being overgrown.
Recently, Mayor Ronnie Johnston, councilwomen Hawnethia Williams and Ocie Franklin, and City Manager Leigh Anne Knight toured the city to check out properties that have become a bit too “green,” where properties aren’t being mowed or maintained.
The problem is the city has just one code-enforcement officer, Franklin said, and “he can’t be everywhere all the time.”
“We do need to take care cleaning up our city because this is ridiculous,” she said.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Randy Vinson told the council he’s not included another officer in his budget for years because he’s been told to avoid adding new employees, period. If another officer was indeed added, he said he could “certainly ratchet up the number of homes we can deal with.”
Councilman Keith Dalton asked why overtime or a part-time employee couldn’t be added, instead. “I see a big part of (the proposed position) being seasonal,” he said. When the grass browns in winter, properties aren’t overgrown.
The problem with that is a code-enforcement officer must be trained in the city’s codes, Knight said. She said the city has already examined overtime, employing an officer receiving workman’s compensation who can’t go back to work but could enforce codes, and hiring a temp agency to provide help. No injured officers are available, and the others were discarded because code-enforcement personnel need so much training.
Dalton asked that the idea be tabled until Knight could provide precise numbers on what a new employee would cost. Knight said the position would require a $66,486 salary and a car was available in the city’s pool.
After lengthy debate, Goodman voted to add the new officer, with Franking seconding her motion. Williams and Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Whatley joined them in passing the motion 4-2. Smith and Dalton voted against it.
The city’s budget as passed Thursday calls for a half-mill decrease, with total tax revenues of $4,304,468.38.