After hiring David Pace and Fermina Rochac six months ago, Vincent Diem, senior community inspector, said community inspections have picked up in pace.
Hired in September to increase the number of community inspectors on staff and reduce the amount of overcrowding violations in town, Rochac and Pace have done just that.
"We’ve been noticing different trends," said Diem about violations. "We have seen an increase in the ability to identify and resolve complaints — both violations and non-violations."
Diem said primarily violations are identified because they are complaint driven, meaning the inspectors go to the house of an alleged violator to asses the situation.
From there, the inspectors will send written notice identifying the problem and giving the property owner 30 days to resolve the problem.
If the problem is not resolved, then the town will pursue further legal action.
This could include civil penalties, including proposed penalties that, if approved by the Planning Commission and then Town Council, could fine residents up to $250 for any violation of the recently approved August overcrowding ordinance.
"It’s a criminal offense if someone is running a transient lodging or boarding house under an October 2003 ordinance passed by the Town Council," said Diem, adding the additional civil penalties waiting for approval will also make the August ordinance more clear.
Although he said the new inspectors have allowed the town to address and close more cases than before, Diem admitted recently they have received more complaints of violations than in the past.
"I have noticed that the more cases we’re able to close, the number of complaints we receive seem to increase," he said. "I don’t know if that’s because citizens see the effort provided so they feel complaints are answered more and so they decide to call in — I just don’t know why they go up."
In 2004 Diem said they received 165 complaints and were able to close, on average, 13.5 cases a month.
In February of this year he said they closed 13 excessive occupancy cases, but received a total of 22 complaints.
"We had a number of new cases initiated, it’s not always like that," said Diem. "I anticipate that the March numbers are going to be different, that they will be significantly higher in the number of [cases] that are closed."
The majority of complaints received include excessive occupancy violations, vehicular complaints, new construction — or work being done without a permit violations and home-based business complaint violations.
Diem added that although it has been slow over the winter months, once spring and summer arrive and doors and windows open up, the inspectors anticipate more excessive occupancy complaints to come in.
With those complaints, Diem said the hope is that Pace and Rochac can continue to educate residents about the town’s ordinances and how to avoid future violations.
"If the effectiveness of the education efforts increase, obviously we would hope the number of complaints or violations would decrease," he said. "I look forward to the success with preventing them from occurring."
<b1>— Brynn Grimley