With code enforcement in the city basically dormant over the past few years, and the State of California requiring cities to enforce water conservation rules, the Oakdale City Council approved a combined code enforcement/water conservation officer position at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 7.
According to city management analyst Miranda Lutzow, in 2007 code enforcement was operated out of the now defunct community development department on a part-time basis. Over the past year, the position has sat vacant and with the duties performed, as needed, by a city intern.
With the current drought, the city was mandated to cut water usage by 32 percent requiring numerous mandatory water restrictions on both residents and businesses.
Lutzow said the role of the water conservation officer would be to receive and investigate complaints and violations of water conservation policies and violations, then initiate enforcement action if warranted including the issuing of citations.
One of the benefits of combining and needing a full-time position, according to Lutzow, was that the intern was not available for any after hours duties where contacts or observations would have been called for as part of a complaint.
The primary role would be to educate the violator for both code or water violations for compliance rather than a strict enforcement action.
“Often times when someone violates an ordinance, they don’t know it’s on the books,” Lutzow said.
“Our goal isn’t to be punitive, but to educate first,” City Manager Bryan Whitemyer told the council. “We won’t be as aggressive as some cities and don’t want to be penalizing.”
During public discussion, Oakdale resident Kathleen Westenberg said she felt the $3,885 to $4,671 monthly salary range (just under a yearly $65,000 total with city benefit and tax expense contributions) was high for the position.
“Is this person going to have a degree from Harvard?” Westenberg asked. “This seems extremely high for what the person will be required to do.”
Alice Garcia also told the council she felt the cost was extreme and the city seems to be “always adding new jobs” that she felt would eventually require officials to ask for more money from the citizens.
One other resident told the council he felt it was about time the city got back into code enforcement as blight could be seen in every neighborhood with abandoned cars, unwanted televisions, and other unsightly debris in some yards.
In explaining the financial analysis of the position, Whitemyer said the salary and benefit costs for the job, split evenly between the General Fund and Water Fund, was well within the range of other cities in the area.
The measure passed with Councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos casting a lone dissenting vote.
After the meeting Bairos said she voted against the measure because she felt the annual cost was too much and the city could handle the complaints with existing personnel.
“If there’s a problem with water (usage), then deal with it,” Bairos said.
In other action, the council also approved the police officer trainee position which will allow the city to recruit and send prospective officers to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Academy.