By Greg Bird
An item on the agenda for tonight’s McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting is asking to grant Judge Executive Doug Stephens permission to look at the possibility of establishing a Code Enforcement Board to better implement and enforce county ordinances.
Judge Stephens said this week he has been conducting research in to how such a board could be created, and what duties it would entail, and hopes to present the idea to the Fiscal Court to get their blessing to further develop a plan to implement and staff such a body.
Kentucky Revised Statute 65.88 grants Fiscal Courts authority to implement a Code Enforcement Board and to authorize an officer to issue citations for violations of county ordinances.
The Board, consisting of at least three members, would have the authority to establish policies and procedures dealing with enforcement of county ordinances, as well as hearing appeals and grievances from citizens concerning violations.
Currently, there are three main ordinances passed by the Fiscal Court that could be enforced by such a board: the Occupational Tax, Business License and garbage. Additional duties could involve enforcement of zoning and nuisance ordinances and building permits – none of which are current local ordinances.
While Board members would not be paid, and the Board would not have any taxing authority, the County would have the ability to hire an officer to fulfill the duties of the office.
That position would be a paid employee, but if done properly, the position should pay for itself in a relatively short time Stephens believes. It also is beneficial to the County to enforce the laws it passes, he said.
If a code enforcement officer is able to increase occupational tax collection rates by even five percent annually, that amounts to more than $50,000 per year added to the General Fund. Additionally, under the current garbage contract, if participation rates increase over 5,200 households the County would receive 6.5 percent of the garbage collection service’s net gross as a franchise fee. With less than 4,200 residences currently subscribed for regular collection, the County receives no fees from Poff Carting.
Judge Stephens said he feels the policy for an enforcement officer would not be to issue a citation on their first encounter with a violator. Rather, he said, they would talk with the individual to inform them of the violation and potential fines associated and urge them to rectify the matter and potentially issue a warning. Only after a follow-up visit and the determination that there was no effort made to comply with the ordinance would a citation be issued.
Under current ordinances, violators who fail to pay occupational tax could be fined five percent of the past-due amounts monthly, as well as 12 percent interest charges. Failure to properly display a business license could carry a $50 fine, and failure to obtain a license carries a $5 fine for each day a business is found to be operating without one. The garbage ordinance carries a fine of $10 per day, up to a maximum of $500.
Judge Stephens stated the Animal Control Officer would also be placed under the board’s auspices, as that office is tasked with enforcing animal laws.
Prior to the Primary Election several magistrate candidates stated they did not feel the County needed such an officer, and others added their belief that the enforcement duties should fall on local law enforcement such as constables and Sheriff’s deputies.