The city is looking to hire a code enforcement officer to replace one on leave, but because nothing is changing as far as manpower is concerned, the effort will still be sorely understaffed, officials at City Hall admit.
On Sept. 11 the Ceres City Council gave permission to hire a code enforcement officer as the current code enforcement supervisor, Frank Alvarez, is out on leave. The new position will be that of a code enforcement officer - not a supervisor - to save the city money. The council action was necessary because Alvarez is still on the books and City Manager Toby Wells cannot "over hire" without council permission.
Two weeks ago the city filled Alvarez's vacancy with a temporary employee costing $8,000 per month. City Manager Toby Wells said the temp was necessary because hiring a permanent officer will take up to two months and there's work that needs to be done.
The fully burdened cost of the new code enforcement officer, which includes salary and benefits, will be $8,500 per month.
The city only can afford to hire the one full-time employee along with Ceres Police Sgt. Jason Coley, who oversees the program on a half-time basis. City staff member Patty Maloy devotes clerical time to the program as well.
"The staffing will remain the same," said Wells. "It's never enough. I would think for a city of 47,000 we could keep four full-time code enforcement officers busy."
The city will continue to enforce municipal code violations on a complaint-driven basis of the most egregious situations, said Wells, because of the manpower shortage.
"We need a lot of help. We need help from the residents, help from the neighbors, and we don't get a lot of help in that respect."
Last month Councilmember Linda Ryno suggested seeing if citizens who are part of the VIPS (Volunteers in Public Safety) program could help clean up the city of shopping carts, remove illegal yard sale signs and report graffiti.
Wells said the city is looking at the idea and other "creative solutions."
"It's kind of like anything - what is the best use of the resources that you have and for what VIPS does, is taking down yard sale signs the best use of their time when they have the ability to go cite people who are parking in handicapped parking spaces and other vehicle issues? It just comes down to the most efficient use of resources. Do you need any special training or anything to take down yard sale signs? I mean, anybody can do that. Again, does it make sense to have a police officer take down yard sale signs or return shopping carts? No, right? It's kind of that whole conversation of you want to have people using their skill set where they can help. At the same time I don't think the public wants us to spend tremendous amounts of resources on things that anybody walking around the block can fix and take down yard sale signs."
Wells said nobody should be posting yard sale signs because the city code prohibits them - except for one sign only that may be placed at the sale site during sale hours.
A gamut of code enforcement issues plagues Ceres with blight, including abandoned cars parked on properties, garbage cans stored in public view on days when garage is not being collected, piles of junk, accumulations of materials being horded, and yards and houses that are not being maintained.