Building Department to focus on code enforcement
The Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved Building Director John Cunningham’s request to fill a vacant code enforcement position that was funded in his budget at a June BOS meeting.
The department head told the supervisors his combined building and code enforcement department budgets were approximately $180,000 lighter than in the prior year.He said a building inspector was retiring and the position would go unfilled, leaving two inspectors to cover the entire county.
“I’m confident, however, that we can still provide good service. It will require on busy days that one of the two plan checkers will probably have to go out in the field and do inspections.
“On particularly busy days it’s likely that I too will have to go out and do inspections.”
He said that was still a victory of sorts, as most departments in the state couldn’t provide that service on a daily basis anymore.
Moving to code enforcement he said, “When the sun comes out the complaints come out and I’m not currently able to keep up with it.”
He said the county would need to establish an abatement fund for clean-up projects in the long run “so that we can actually get in and clean up some of the places that need to be cleaned up.”
Cunningham said his department could put a lien on properties that were cleaned up so the county’s expenditures would be paid back, but that process could take four or five years; an initial investment in the fund would be needed to get it going.
He also told the board he was aware this wasn’t a viable short-term plan.
“The abatement fund would lend some teeth to code enforcement that it currently doesn’t have, but in these economic times, libraries, museums, all the other issues, we may not be able to afford it.”
BOS Chairwoman and Chester supervisor Sherrie Thrall asked the department head if he was putting together a schedule of fines and fees for code enforcement to give it more bite in the near future.
Cunningham acknowledged he had talked with her about that and said he gave a copy of Lassen County’s code enforcement ordinance to previous county counsel James Reichle six or seven months before. He said he would bring something to the board when the busy county attorney’s office was able to get to it.
Addressing the code enforcement officer position, Quincy supervisor Lori Simpson asked, “If there’s no complaints what are they doing?”
Cunningham laughed and told her he wished he had ever run into that problem but the complaints were constantly coming in.
Simpson continued, “I know, but I mean, are they checking things? I had the issue about the signs in town and they weren’t in line with the regulations, but I see signs popping up all the time and they’re not in the regulations, but somebody has to call and complain. I mean there’s a blaring one in East Quincy.”
“We set priorities based on the degree of hazard. Sewage spilling on the grounds, grading going on in creeks, those types of things take immediate priority,” Cunningham explained.
“We have a five-point priority system we use. Signs are on the lower end of that spectrum.”
He added, “The sign ordinance is very old, outdated; it is a Pandora’s box. We have departments, government agencies that have signage that isn’t in compliance with the ordinances.”
Finally, Cunningham said he and Planning Director Randy Wilson agreed those ordinances would have to be revisited once the general plan update was completed.