Clallam commissioners aim to improve code enforcement

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners took steps during a work session Monday to improve code enforcement in the county.

Mary Ellen Winborn, director of the Department of Community Development, repeatedly urged commissioners to consider adding a new code enforcement officer who could supplement the efforts of the county’s lone code enforcement officer, Barb McFall.

Commissioners said the county is training someone who would spend 10 hours a week helping McFall with administrative duties.

They also directed County Administrator Jim Jones to ask the hearing examiner what ordinance changes he recommends and what it would cost to include him in the code enforcement process.

Jones said the county would need to change the hearing examiner’s contract.

Winborn told commissioners that code enforcement gives purpose to many people’s jobs in DCD and that it is her second directive under the county charter.

She shared some success stories of cleanups across the county in recent years and told commissioners that more help would expand what code enforcement is able to do.

“If you like what you see, it would be beneficial to have more help in the department,” she said. “If you don’t, if you think we should continue as we are, we’ve already made changes in our department.”

Her department has taken away resources from other services to help with code enforcement. She said a building inspector is helping out.

“We’ll adjust and do the best we can because I believe it’s very important to the community to have this service,” she said.

McFall said the help she will have for 10 hours each week will be significant.

Commissioner Mark Ozias called the administrative help a “significant step in the right direction.”

McFall and Winborn told commissioners that much of code enforcement’s effort is to achieve voluntary compliance.

“Voluntary compliance is the best way because you want people invested in what we’re doing,” Winborn said. “When you’re in it for the long haul, you want buy in from the people.”

Ozias said the commissioners and citizens are interested in the end result of code enforcement.

If someone is in violation of code and they aren’t working to fix it, they should be held accountable, he said.

“Whether that’s a ticket that’s written or an appearance in front of the hearings examiner, I would like to know which system has the potential to be more efficient,” he said.

Ozias said there have been citizens who volunteered to help, but Winborn and McFall said that also creates more work and volunteers would need to be overseen.

“You don’t want volunteers just going out on their own,” Winborn said.

McFall echoed that.

She said there is a volunteer now who deals with junk vehicles, but it’s only when an owner is asking for help that he gets involved, she said.

“My reluctance is to send them out on these calls … without some kind of training and knowledge of what they’re getting into and when they back out,” McFall said. “Volunteers are a great option, but you need someone to track them.”

Commissioner Bill Peach said the county needs to change its codes to address code enforcement.

He said that currently there is little recourse when someone throws away a letter from the county about code violations.

“What action can we take other than sending a letter that ends up in a trash can?” Peach asked.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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