The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council agreed last week to enter a code enforcement contract with CAP Government Services on a piggyback agreement with the City of Lake Worth Beach after a long period with no code enforcement services in the town.
At the council’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, Town Manager Jamie Titcomb submitted a proposed contract with CAP that he had selected over several other contractual options.
“It seemed like there was a concerted consensus to look at the idea of going to contract code enforcement versus the model that I was talking about in bringing some of these programs in-house,” Titcomb said. “We asked for piggyback, collaborative buying purchase agreements from various providers. I talked to three or more companies and selected the best existing contract. An array of existing services out there in the Palm Beach County landscape have been recently vetted by another community.”
Titcomb said the service agreement is piggybacked on an existing contract with the City of Lake Worth Beach. “This comprehensive building services, code enforcement and inspection services scope of work… allowed us the largest array of services that we could utilize,” he explained, adding that the contact allows for a specific hourly rate for three different levels of those services. “At this point in time, we are just talking about code enforcement… If the council authorizes us to enter into a piggyback contract with CAP Government Services, our next step would be to sit down with them and define a specific scope of work based on this contract.”
If approved, staff would then bring back a specific, budgeted item for the coming fiscal year for the council’s approval, he said.
Titcomb noted that the town had a staff code enforcement officer under the previous town manager, who was budgeted at 21 hours a week, but was cut back to seven hours a week during the final months of the contract.
“Whether we do this in-house or through a contract, the budgetary impact is almost identical,” he said. “If you take this rate for a full-time, 40-hour code enforcement official doing the work of the town on our schedule of priorities, this would come up to $156,000. If we bring employees in-house to do it, it will come up to about the same level.”
He said the consensus of the public and the council at a previous meeting seemed to be to go with a turnkey approach to provide the service that might eventually be absorbed into a town staff position.
Titcomb emphasized that the town has a number of ordinances and codes that should be reviewed or updated so that they match the council’s priorities for enforcement.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia asked if the council needs to decide if code enforcement is going to be proactive or complaint-driven.
“That’s going to make a difference in what it’s going to cost us,” Maniglia said.
Titcomb said that decision would not need to be made immediately.
“The cost will be dependent on what you decide,” he said. “The amount and scope of cases you want to look at, whether you just want to catalog them, whether you want to focus on specific things sequentially in a row, deploy inspectors just to deal with certain kinds of problems, then when they deal with those issues, you move on to another priority of the council. We can scale this pretty much any way the council directs us.”
He added that the priority would be to get those certified inspectors in place in order to deploy any program at all. “Currently, we have a moratorium on code enforcement and no way to enforce it,” Titcomb said.
Maniglia added that the town modeled its code enforcement policy on other entities.
“A lot of them aren’t working for us,” she said. “I’m almost tempted to look at the county codes and see what we can use and can’t use.”
Titcomb said that except for some specific areas, the town’s codes are the county’s codes.
“This and the other companies we talked to are certified professional companies in the business. They have employees doing this every single day,” he said, adding that some of the nuances of different municipalities may be subject to interpretation, but there would be a very short learning curve for the company to assume code enforcement for the town.
Titcomb noted that having a certified professional company would put it at arm’s length of the emotion and politics that often accompany code enforcement.
In the future, the council will have to address different issues peculiar to the town, such as resolving whether or not certain violations are protected by an agricultural exemption.
“You have all kinds of things you have talked about in law enforcement. You have all kinds of things that we have documented that end up being essentially neighbor versus neighbor complaints about things going on, so you have to be careful,” Titcomb said. “You’ll need to define the priorities, and I caution you about the term ‘complaint-driven’ because complaint-driven code enforcement is often people trying to leverage the town to settle disputes between neighbors.”
He reiterated that the scope of priorities will come back before the council to decide.
Maniglia made a motion to accept staff’s recommendation to contract with CAP Government Services for code enforcement, which carried 4-0 with Councilwoman Lisa El-Ramey absent.