Revamped Code Enforcement Division looking to hire

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Covington Code Enforcement Officer David Edwards investigates a report of a hazardous tree in the Westside Neighborhood.

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington’s new-look Code Enforcement Division is seeking inspectors to carry out a critical task: Protect the health and safety of Covington residents. 

The division has five positions to fill, courtesy of recent turnover and a decision by the Covington City Commission to increase funding in the 2018-19 budget for additional staff.
 
“We have new staff, new training, and a new focus on carrying out our mission - all we need are some more inspectors,” said Covington Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith, who was hired in April as part of a reorganization at City Hall designed to increase collaboration, emphasize customer service, and improve service throughout the community.
 
The City is looking for three Code Enforcement officers who will concentrate on interior inspections, and two who will conduct exterior inspections. The links for the jobs can be found on Covington’s website by clicking HERE and looking under the Neighborhood Services job listings for “code enforcement officer” and “fire/rental inspector.”
 
The deadline for applying is 4 p.m. Aug. 10.
 
All five jobs are part-time, with 22-hour work weeks that are spread over three days.
 
Inspectors are part of the front line of City employees who strive to ensure that the living and working environment within Covington is healthy and safe. They do that by enforcing the City's Property Maintenance, Nuisance, and Zoning codes, which apply to both residential and commercial properties.
 
Issues can include a wide range of potentially dangerous code violations, including faulty electric, broken sanitary waste systems, missing gutters and downspouts, pools that create mosquito breeding grounds, unsafe trees, and trash, debris and tall weeds that harbor rodents.
 
Smith said the timing of the multiple job openings creates further opportunity for refocus and transition in a division that a year ago was beset by turmoil. “We’re slowly creating a whole new way of doing things,” he said. “In essence, we’re rebuilding this division from the ground up.”
 
Among the changes: 
  • New staff: All three of the City’s current inspectors are new to the City since the beginning of the year. The five open positions include two new positions funded in the budget that took effect July 1. All eight inspectors will report directly to Code Enforcement Manager Walt Mace, who has been with the City about four years and in the manager’s job for about one year. As part of the reorganized chain of command, Mace also oversees a coordinator. 
  • More formal training: All inspectors are being trained by Mace instead of a fellow inspector, which was the procedure under the City’s former set-up. Furthermore, for the first time inspectors will receive formal training by the Kentucky League of Cities as that training becomes available. Previously, City policy did not provide training for part-time workers. All Code Enforcement officers will also be undergoing customer service training, Mace said. 
  • New flexibility: The City will continue to have three Code Enforcement districts, each staffed by an interior and an exterior inspector. The newly funded positions - one exterior, and one interior - will be assigned to problem areas or issues as needed on a citywide basis, giving Mace the flexibility and ability to respond to concerns more quickly and thoroughly. 
  • Smoother process: A couple of years ago, Code Enforcement’s records suggested it had many thousands of open cases. But by working with Todd Sink, Covington’s Manager of Analytics & Intelligence, Mace and Smith evaluated those records and realized that final action had actually already been taken in thousands of those cases - they just needed an inspector to acknowledge that action and sign off on the closure. The follow-up led to better organization, cleaner records, and ultimately quicker enforcement. 
  • Consistent philosophy: Much of the tone of the division’s interaction with residents is dictated by individual inspectors’ approach to their work, specifically whether they adopt a punitive or collaborative mindset. In the past, Smith said, that approach varied widely among individual inspectors, creating confusion and lack of consistency for residents and the City’s Legal Department. 
Going forward, the Code Enforcement Division is seeking a consistent approach across the division, one that seeks penalties only when necessary to ensure compliance, not necessarily as the first step, Smith said.
 
Many homeowners are simply unaware of city regulations and safety ordinances, and others need help fixing problems, Mace said. “The goal of code enforcement is not to write a citation but to get a health or safety hazard fixed,” he said. “It’s all about improving the quality of life of our residents.”
 
Most inspections are a response to complaints, he said, and in that way Code Enforcement is a tool for neighbors who want a nearby problem property fixed up. “The joke - and it’s actually true - is that part of what we do is keep neighbors from fighting,” Mace said.
 
The same is true on a broader level.
 
“One of the exciting things I’ve seen happening since I’ve been with the City is the greater involvement of neighborhood associations in looking around their community and identifying problems,” Mace said. “There are higher expectations now, and people are getting engaged in making sure their neighborhoods are fixed up.”
 
That’s part of what makes the job of inspector attractive.
 
“It’s rewarding to see a neighborhood change,” he said. “You can see people taking a more active role in improving the livability and look of an area, and you know that you were part of making that happen.”
 
The job listings describe in detail the expected duties and necessary qualifications for the new inspectors.
 
Mace and Smith said a person who is likely to thrive in the job is someone who: 
  • Enjoys being outdoors.
  • Works well by himself or herself but has good people skills and communication skills, and knows how to be diplomatic. (“You have to be able to tell people stuff they don’t like to hear, such as ‘you don’t have a complaint’ to a neighbor or ‘you have to fix this’ to a homeowner,” Smith said.)
  • Is familiar with basic home maintenance and property management and enjoys seeing things get fixed up.
  • Pays attention to detail.
  • Is organized, keeping good records and following steps in the legal process. 
“It’s a pretty dynamic environment - no two days are the same, you meet new people every day and you’re tackling different projects or challenges one after another,” Mace said.
 
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