Town Council took a step toward filling the Town’s long-vacant code compliance officer position at the Wednesday, Sept. 19 meeting in Suite Z. According to Senior Planner Sandra Moberly, the position has remained vacant since 2008; in that time, the Town has seen a marked increase in code compliance violations relating in particular to signage and outdoor sales, as well as property violations, blight, and other issues.
Moberly proposed creating a new, two-year position using salary savings from the vacant Public Works, Community and Economic Development (CED) Director and Assistant Building Official positions. The Town would initially fill the position with an immediate, short-term hire, and segue into a long-term hire for the next two years. The total, two-year cost for the Officer 1 position, including salary and benefits: $182,311.
Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) Commissioner Collin Fernie argued for the importance of the position, particularly to regulate the current, “swap-meet” aesthetic in town. “The look of the town is not what we want it to be,” he said, referring to over-prevalent sale signs and banners. “A lot of business owners feel like it’s a free-for-all. They just want a level playing field, and to understand what the rules are.”
Council members remained cautious about approving the funding for the position, as that position would be forced to terminate after two years without additional funding.
“This absolutely runs out in two years,” said Mayor Rick Wood. “I don’t know what our financial circumstances will be, but that causes me a lot of anxiety. Like everything, once you add it, it’s hard to drop it.”
Fernie offered a compromise; “We’d certainly be receptive to a part-time position supplemented by a volunteer,” he said. “I think we’re at the point where all the effort we’ve put in is going to be wasted if we don’t have some kind of teeth.” Fernie also accepted Council member Matthew Lehman’s proposal for a one-year rather than two-year position. “I think a lot can be done in a year,” he said. But he requested that Council decide quickly; “Having something done sooner rather than later will do a lot to change the look of the town for this winter,” he said.
PEDC Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney put it more bluntly: “Without a code compliance officer, we’re devaluing the visitor experience,” she said. “What we’re offering with this discount mentality, with Mammoth on sale, is we’re the discount capital of resorts.” Even a temporary clerk to write code compliance citations for signage would be of great benefit, she argued.
Senior Planner Moberly urged Council to support a full-time, two-year rather than part-time or one-year position, considering that in code compliance, as in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collection, “it’s important to be consistent,” she said. “A lot of times, you can get people in compliance, and if you let the heat off, then people start doing [what they want].” She added that the code compliance officer wouldn’t just be addressing signs and sales, but also safety, nuisance and blight. “I think that in the next two years, we could find work for a full-time code compliance officer,” she said.
Council member Lehman expressed his support for staff’s recommendation, and went one step further, adding, “Whatever letters we end up generating and whatever ordinances we address [with the new code compliance officer], we should consult our legal counsel and, much like I saw when we did the TOT compliance efforts, I’d like to find out if there aren’t some other ordinances we can implement that can add more teeth to this. Only because, and I hate to use this term, sometimes you’ve got to put heads on stakes in order to get people’s attention.”
“It’s ‘heads in beds,’” quipped Council member John Eastman.
Council approved the funding allocation to fill the vacant code compliance officer position 4-0.