DH Council discusses effectiveness of ordinance department

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — The effectiveness of the city’s ordinance department was the main topic of discussion for the city council during a study session held before the Oct. 22 council meeting.

Councilors questioned DPW Department Head William Zimmer about the
effectiveness of the ordinance department, which was reorganized by the city earlier this year. Zimmer said the department has issued about 4,000 violations this year for different ordinance offenses.

The department is allowed three full-time ordinance officers and one part-time officer, but has been running with two full-time and two part-time officers while the third position is filled.

Zimmer said the department used to be managed and run by one officer, but that that is not realistic anymore.

“The economy has changed and a lot of other things in the city have changed over the last few years,” Zimmer said. “There are a lot more issues, more vacant homes and destitute people. When times get tough, our ordinance issues naturally increase.”

Councilman Joseph Kosinski agreed that the economy has changed, but emphasized the importance of keeping the city’s ordinances enforced.

“If we allow the deterioration of our housing stock, it will have a direct impact on our return of revenues as the economy grows and moves forward and improves,” Kosinski said. “It has a direct effect on a lot of things, in particular the revenue stream that we’re trying to protect and improve so that we can get out of this deficit situation in the city.”

The city entered the 2013-14 fiscal year with a deficit of approximately $5.5 million, but are projecting to drop that number to just over $2 million by June 30, 2014.

Kosinski said he was surprised by the number of citations already handed out.

“The fact that you have issued 4,000 violations is evidence that this department should have been in existence for a longer time than it has been,” Kosinski said. “Four thousand this year? That’s stunning.”

Zimmer said that the fact that they have issued so many citations “drives home the point that the department means business” and that he feels the number will gradually reduce as residents discover that the city is verifying that ordinances are being followed.

Councilwoman Janet Badalow complimented Zimmer on the work of the ordinance department, but said that the city should hire someone to strictly be an animal control officer, even if that means amending the rules of the ordinance department since they state that one of the full-time officers must be trained in ordinance and animal control.

“The council should try to do something about this,” Badalow said. “How long are we going to wait? We’ve been without an animal control officer in the city for over two years. It’s ridiculous.”

The city currently receives help from Dearborn animal control officers.

Zimmer said the requirements and hiring procedures have been in place for a while and he was going to continue following them to fill the open position.

He said he recently met with some of the city’s reserve police officers and they expressed interest in helping the city address ordinance issues during their shifts.

“We had an hour-long meeting where we went through everything from trees to blight to trash cans and grass,” Zimmer said. “They seemed to me to be ready to help.”

He said that the officers can report ordinance violations to the department during or after their shifts.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)