The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Revised code enforcement starts with new officer


June 20, 2018

TOMMY MULL eyes a map of the city as he talks about his new job..

The City of Sweet Home is in the process of expanding and moving its code enforcement program from the Police Department back to the Community and Economic Development Department, a move intended to make the program more proactive.

The process has been complaint-driven for years, but new Code Enforcement Officer Tommy Mull will be out and about in the community in response to what officials say is a desire in the community for more code enforcement.

Mull, who began working on June 4, has started patrolling and getting a feel for the need around town. His position will be full time. Until the transition, Sweet Home Police Department Community Services Officer Gina Riley was formally a half-time code enforcement officer.

City officials have been hearing a "great desire for this service," said Community and Economic Development Director Jerry Sorte. "I think that Tommy will be a perfect fit in the position. To be a code enforcement officer, you've got to be able to work with people."

Such officials need to be nice and friendly while being able to motivate people and ultimately being prepared to enforce the codes, Sorte said.

"I think a code enforcement officer really takes a dynamic personality. You've got to strike the right balance."

The code enforcement officer needs to work with people, educate them and encourage compliance with the codes, Sorte said.

"I was a cop for 23 years in the Air Force," Mull said. "My background helps me inherently with customers."

He was on a compliance team inspecting Air Force programs, he said, experience that he also expects to serve him as a code enforcement officer.

Mull has been the city's volunteer emergency manager for some time, Sorte said. He's shown he wants to serve this community.

"It's about doing what's right in your community," Mull said. "We can all benefit."

"We're going to start to ramp things up," Sorte said. The effort now will be letting people know the rules about the city's codes, tall grass (no taller than 10 inches), open storage, health and safety.

First and foremost, Mull will be looking for voluntary compliance, Sorte said.

"I think it's important for people to know we're not out there trying to smash them," Mull said. It's important to build relationships, giving people the confidence that code enforcement will follow through.

The Community and Economic Development Department is kind of building the program as it goes, Mull said. He is working the processes already in place, giving people the opportunity to fix violations.

As it takes shape, the program will continue to function the same way, Sorte said. Mull will respond to complaints and then begin a process of working with property owners, with citations issued to those who will not comply.

What is different now is that Mull will patrol the community, taking action on violations he finds. He will document a violation, take photos and then talk to the property owner face to face to initiate the process.

Mull has divided Sweet Home into five zones, which he will adjust in coming weeks. He would like to build a schedule around those zones, spending different days in different zones, so people will know when he's going to be in any given area and take action to ensure they're not violating city codes.

While he will be proactive, he said, complaints are going to be higher on his priority list.

He and Sorte will take feedback and continually evaluate the program and make adjustments.

The process will follow a written protocol so people understand they aren't being treated arbitrarily, Sorte said. "We're still working on that. It's going to take some time to fully remake this system."

As they build the system, the department will need to make sure complaints trace back to the city's code, Sorte said.

It's also a city service, Sorte said, and the city wants to ensure the service is fairly distributed throughout the city. They're looking at technological solutions to help get the job done and make sure it's used across town.

He and Mull are "beta testing" Public Works' new work order system built around a mobile app for use in code enforcement, Sorte said. Among features, it will map data.

Mull also is going to coordinate with the Police Department and parks crew and spend time in parks as well, Sorte said.

City officials are still figuring out how to handle complaints about dogs. Noise complaints for barking dogs may be directed to the code enforcement officer, but for now after hours, residents should call the Police Department. Complaints about vehicles abandoned on the street remain the responsibility of the Police Department.

For more information or to report a code violation, contact Mull at (541) 818-8043.


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