New county codes department coming together

Alachua County admin
Alachua County admin

Only two weeks after the Alachua County Board Of County Commissioners dissolved the code enforcement board, a new codes department is taking shape.

Carl Smart, Assistant County Manager for Public Safety and Community Services is the manager of the code enforcement division that has consolidated code enforcers from the growth management with the solid waste department.

Carl Smart

According to Smart, everything is, “operating the same and officers are responsive to complaints coming in from citizens.”

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Smart says the new codes department will focus on cross training officers and eventually establishing regions that they will cover.

“And as time permits, we will patrol neighborhoods to make sure we are getting compliance with codes,” he said.

The codes department will be overseen by Smart and Harold Horne will continue to serve as the code enforcement supervisor.

Residents reporting code violations will still use the online portal at the county website and can call 311, Smart said.

Smart said the department will be expanded with additional officers to the current staff of eight.

Four code officers come from growth management and four are from the solid waste department.

“We want to expand the unit so we have more officers in the field doing patrolling, doing an even better job taking care of neighborhoods,” he said.

Smart said the County is looking for a space to house the new department and “to co-locate and bring them together in one location as space becomes available.”

The code enforcement officers in the growth management division have concentrated on housing violations, zoning issues, development issues, tobacco free violations, and the face mask ordinance, according to Smart.

The code enforcement officers in the solid waste department have been dealing with waste issues such regarding garbage and recycling trash pick ups.

Now all code enforcement officers will be cross trained, Smart said.

“Each inspector will handle an array of different code issues,” Smart said, “One inspector can handle a geographic area so people can get familiar and know who to call.”

The County Codes Department will be available to support municipalities that have their one code officers. “We will be there to help,” Smart said.

Without a code board, Attorney Terry Vinn will serve as the Special Magistrate to handle any code cases. Vinn has already served the Alachua County code enforcement board and is familiar with the laws in place.

A special magistrate comes into play if there is a dispute from a reported violation.

According to Smart, code enforcement officers will first talk to the property owner, then follow up by issuing a notice of violation.

“If there’s no compliance in a reasonable time period, then the officer can refer the case to a special magistrate,” Smart said.

“At the hearing, the owner can tell their side of the story, the officer tells their side of the case.”

If the special magistrate determines that the owner is innocent, the case is closed, Smart said. “If guilty, the owner is given a reasonable time to get into compliance or face a fine.

According to BOCC Chair Robert Hutchinson, not all members of the now dissolved code enforcement board were enforcing Alachua County codes when they disagreed with them and that led to the BOCC moving to dissolve the board.

As the new code department grows, Smart said his goal is to have enough officers to cover all of the county in a reasonable area. 

“We’re looking at how to effectively divide the county into geographical segments,” Smart said. “Where they can develop relationships.”

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