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Shared inspection services in the works
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REDINGTON BEACH – Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford addressed the Town Commission April 29 about the possibility of sharing a code enforcement officer and a building/permitting inspector.

Crawford told commissioners Madeira Beach is agreeable to lending its code enforcement officer to Redington Beach for a fee ranging from $19,000 to $29,000. The lower figure would be in effect if Redington Beach handles the administrative work associated with it and the larger figure would be in effect if Madeira Beach handles it.

Crawford also said Madeira Beach would handle the town’s building services for a fee of 2 percent of the construction cost.

Crawford also said he preferred for Madeira Beach to handle both services, not just code enforcement.

Madeira Beach uses two code enforcement deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and maintains its own building department.

“We help people get into compliance and not just issuing tickets,” Crawford said. “The story I like to use is that there’s an old lady with a huge console television on her porch which is a code violation, but it’s there because grandma can’t carry it off the porch. What we do is send a public works guy over there to take it away, and the code violation goes away.”

During the last year, according to figures supplied to Crawford from Redington Beach, about 135 code violations were issued in Redington Beach.

He suggested the two municipalities enter into a probationary, one-year contract, open to negotiation at the expiration date.

Redington Beach has long relied on Public Works Director Mark Davis to enforce code ordinances. Davis, however, will be retiring in early July, prompting the commission to look for alternatives.

Mayor Nick Simons said the town has gotten “spoiled” by having Davis available 40 hours a week, driving around town, responding to and looking for violations.

“We will lose that and it’s a little bit of a concern to me because I don’t want to drive through town ... as elected officials that’s not our job,” he said.

The commission acknowledged it has often been on the losing side of the battle when dealing with folks who ignore repeated warnings, fail to pay fines, and in instances where the case has gone to court, it sometimes is dismissed on a technicality.

Hoping to change that situation, the commission last year agreed to hire a special magistrate to hear violations on a case-by-case basis and, if necessary, has the authority to impose fines that accrue on a daily basis unlike the court system which levies only a one-time fee.

When Simons asked Davis, the director for public works for Redington Beach, his opinion of the Madeira Beach proposal, he replied, “It almost sounds too good to be true.”

Crawford pointed out that the software Madeira Beach uses to track and process code violations, permits and inspections would be readily available to Redington Beach and could be forwarded to the staff on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Resident Hayward Chapman, the lone member in the audience, voiced approval for the plan. “I support using a Pinellas County deputy that arrives in a police vehicle, carries a uniform and a gun is extremely effective ... in getting the attention of a violator,” he said.

For many years, the town has contracted with Pinellas County to issue building permits and perform inspections but recently some board members have talked about looking elsewhere for this service. As such, the feasibility of tapping into the resources of the Madeira Beach Building Department was also on the agenda.

Redington Beach last year had $4.8 million in construction costs. Most of the revenue generated from the permitting and inspection fees is scooped up by the county.

Crawford said if Redington Beach chooses to utilize Madeira Beach’s building department services, a standard 2 percent, across-the-board fee structure would apply based on the above-noted construction costs.

“When you want an inspection, you get it. You don’t have to wait three weeks; if you call for an inspection, he’ll be there and he won’t be late,” Crawford said.

Simons noted that as the economy begins to trend upward so will the costs for permits and inspections.

The commission had also previously discussed hiring a private firm to administer code enforcement and/or building department issues – an option that was not discussed at the workshop.

The matter was slated for further discussion May 6.
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