Lexington Code Enforcement Debated

May 8, 2013

Questions about code enforcement procedures and staffing dominated discussions this week at city hall.  The man who directs officers charged with keeping homes and businesses safe and sound appeared before a council committee.   Early in the meeting, Council member Diane Lawless set the tone by reminding city officials of continuing problems around the University of Kentucky, where too many residences are poorly maintained and yards are filled with trash.

“I don’t know how code enforcement has time for any other part of the city as much as you all respond to the third district,” said Lawless.

Council member Steve Kay then chimed in.  For his part, Kay worries about consistent enforcement.  During the meeting, he quizzed Code Enforcement Director David Jarvis.

“By what criteria, using what rationale do you make exceptions to the rule that says you must do certain things within 30, 60 or 90 days.  That’s what we’ve not seen.  That’s what we’ve been asking for,” said Kay.

David Jarvis says his department is very aggressive with its approach.  He’s not aware of any other code enforcement division that can threaten a delinquent property owner with a ten thousand dollar fine.

As for consistency, Jarvis defended his officers…saying their methods and enforcement efforts are very predictable.

“I disagree.  We have checks and balances systems in everything we do.  There’s a file form we fill out.  All of the supervisors, they approve everything that we do,” added Jarvis.

Complicating their job, Jarvis says, is understaffing… leaving his code enforcement staff thinly stretched.  Currently, he says they’re down two people.   That problem confuses Council member Kevin Stinnett.. who says there should be enough money for more help.

“Here’s what the public needs to understand and here’s what the calls we’re getting.   A 44 million dollar surplus in 2012, fund balance and we’ve narrowed it down, what’s left,  7 million I think is what’s left.  And we’re not hiring code enforcement because of budget issues.  It’s doesn’t add up,” said Stinnett.

As for personnel, council did take action.  First in committee, then in full council, members agreed to hire more people for the Code Enforcement division.