New DCD director takes aim at code enforcement backlog

Clallam County commissioners are considering a “solutions-based” approach to code enforcement created by incoming Department of Community Development Director Bruce Emery.

The plan is aimed at resolving a backlog of cases.

“We have over 440 active cases; it’s time to get to the bottom of it,” Emery said in a Jan. 10 interview. “The new staffing and expertise should help address that.”

Emery’s plan would keep code enforcement in the Department of Community Development rather than transferring it to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

Code enforcement is in the sheriff’s office’s budget now as a placeholder.

“How do we do a better job of code enforcement?” county commissioner Mark Ozias asked during a work session on Jan. 9.

“It’s always a challenge because it involves different departments and it takes a tremendous effort to maintain,” he said.

Emery’s proposal would add two full-time positions as well as another vehicle. The commissioners would receive quarterly progress updates.

It also includes coordinating with the environmental health department, sheriff’s office and prosecuting attorney’s office and developing a “problem-oriented policing” (POP) program to supplement code enforcement efforts and focus attention on neighborhoods with a high concentration of code violations and compliance problems.

“We hope to have 2.6 field officers and one administrative specialist,” Emery said.

Whether that administrative specialist would be a supervisor or in a clerical position needs to be discussed as well as the funding, he said.

“We will continue to work closely with the other departments,” Emery added.

“His proposal is spot on,” Clallam County sheriff Brian King said of the plan.

It’s necessary to clean up the backlog and the sheriff’s office would support this approach, he said.

King agreed that the department needs to be more proactive, saying that was lacking in the past, so small issues don’t turn into big ones.

County Administrator Rich Sill said a memorandum of understanding should be developed among the various departments to go with Emery’s plan.

Emery said the tech team has been together for one year and he is impressed with them.

Burnout is an issue because both sides in a code enforcement dispute are upset, he added.

It’s important to maintain the current knowledge and skill level in the department, Emery said.

“I expect good things in the future,” he said.