A recent Reynoldsburg City Council discussion about hiring more code enforcement officers revealed the city is holding $650,000 dormant in a sidewalk account.
City Auditor Richard Harris said the fund was created in the late 1980s and early 1990s for the purpose of doing sidewalk assessment projects.
Councilman Cornelius McGrady told Harris during the Sept. 16 service committee meeting he would like account-balance information on all city accounts, including the sidewalk fund, and suggested that all council members should spend time discussing the entire 2014 city budget.
Harris said he did not know if it would be possible to transfer the funds to another account for a different use.
"The sidewalk fund was created by council ... for the purpose of doing sidewalk assessment projects," he said. "The last assessments were done in 2007 or 2008. Since this was the purpose of the fund when it was started, moving that money would be problematic.
"The state auditor would have to get involved," he said. "We have not done this type of transfer before and I don't know if it is possible."
Harris said he thought the sidewalk program lapsed years ago because of litigation problems and construction problems around trees that had to be removed.
Councilman Mel Clemens said when he was service director, the city had a schedule of sidewalk inspections and assessments.
"The law says a homeowner is responsible for sidewalks," he said. "When we set up the schedule, we set it up for the whole city, which made it fair. I think we should finish that sidewalk program before we start another."
Service Director Nathan Burd said if there is money in the fund, he would have no problem continuing the sidewalk program. However, he also said the city needs more code-compliance officers to keep up with violations to Reynoldsburg's mowing code, particularly from April through September.
The cost to add one seasonal employee from April to September, at $13 an hour, with the employee working 30 hours per week, would be $10,140, Burd said.
Adding two seasonal employees working the same schedule would cost $20,280.
He recommended council consider adding at least seasonal employees for code compliance, which also would help him resume the sidewalk program.
Hiring two part-time code enforcement officers year-round would cost the city $40,560, Burd said.
"The addition of two new part-time officers working year-round would enable the department to assign one officer to each ward," he said. "Currently, each officer covers half the city."
No decision was made during the safety committee meeting to create legislation to approve hiring more code officers, but Burd said he plans to make a recommendation for staffing for the 2014 budget.
Burd said the two code officers employed by the city inspect both residential and commercial properties and are kept busy. From January through August this year, he said, the code officers conducted 4,522 property inspections and issued 1,889 code-violation notices.
"The administration and staff take this topic seriously every single day and we are getting good results," Burd said.