Union Gap fills codes officer vacancy; big backlog of cases awaits

UNION GAP, Wash. -- Overgrown yards and neglected homes have not been getting a lot of attention in Union Gap. The city's been without a code enforcement officer for months. There's a backlog of cases. A new officer has finally been hired. KIMA learned what's behind this ongoing problem.

On the corner of 7th and Washington Avenues in Union Gap, old RVs, cars in the weeds and junk furniture. Manuel Chavez lives across the street.

"Kinda nasty. It is dirty. And, it kind of brings you down."

It's among dozens of corners, lots and fields that need attention from code enforcement.

The problem?

The city's position's been vacant since spring. And, the timing couldn't be worse.

"Code enforcement actions tend to tick up more for us during the summer months," said Union Gap's Deputy Director of Public Works and Community Development, David Spurlock.

Weeds grow out of control near 4th Avenue and Whatcom. And, in a field across from Larry Ballard's house.

"It blows all that stuff into our yards when the wind comes up and then we gotta find a way to kill it, get it back out of our grass."

Union Gap finally hired someone for the job, but there's a big backlog waiting for him. Twenty-five major cases, including an abandoned house. On top of that, dozens of minor cases.

A tall order for one person.

KIMA asked Spurlock, "Would it be helpful, in your view, to have two code enforcement officers or more?"

"I think during the times when it's peak, it would be nice to have some additional help that you could focus on code enforcement," said Spurlock.

The workload doesn't stop there. The codes officer also has to do building inspections. That combination not only makes it hard to find someone qualified, but someone who'll stick around. The new hire is Union Gap's fourth code enforcement officer in five years.

"It does make us somewhat unstable," said Spurlock. "It makes it hard to keep up with the workflow that is coming in, going out. And, also being proactive to take care of problems."

Spurlock hopes that's about to change.

The new code enforcement officer starts his job after Labor Day.