The Malheur County Sheriff’s Office will add an additional deputy in July to begin enforcing ordinance violations. (The Enterprise/File).
VALE – The county is awash in ordinance violations but starting July 1, there will be a new deputy in town to confront what has becoming a growing problem.
The Malheur County Court approved the new addition to the sheriff’s office in its tentative budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and the decision is not a moment too soon, according to officials.
Ordinance violations range from the construction of buildings on property without a permit, to living in RVs illegally and burning violations. Other violations, including littering, animals at large – like cows – are also a growing and, so far, impenetrable problems.
“I probably have ten (complaints) sitting in my office right now,” said Eric Evans, county planner.
Evans said the need for an ordinance officer is acute.
“It will help a ton. They will start and be years and years behind,” said Evans.
Brian Wolfe, Malheur County sheriff, said there has been a need for an ordinance officer for at least five years.
“County ordinances have not been enforced and they need to be enforced. Environmental health has eight pages that they’ve not had time to enforce. As soon as the position takes effect in July that deputy will be working on those,” said Wolfe.
Craig Geddes, country director of environmental health, said the ordinance officer is crucial.
“In my opinion it would be one of my top priorities for the county. It is highly needed,” said Geddes.
Geddes said he receives dozens of complaints on a regular basis. Those complaints, he said, usually are about garbage or “excess cars or illegal burning.”
People call and complain, and Geddes is the one who now responds.
“Then it is on me to do the investigation, send out letters, and that takes a huge amount of time. I think that kind of work can be done more efficiently by someone dedicated to it,” said Geddes.
The fact the ordinance officer is a sheriff’s deputy will also make a big difference, said Geddes.
“There is a little more seriousness if you have a uniformed officer doing it,” said Geddes.
Wolfe said the position will cost about $100,000, which includes health and retirement benefits.
Geddes said the new deputy is a good deal at any price.
“We have a significant amount of (complaints). There are properties out there that need stuff done. I think it’s a good thing overall and it will help clean up the county,” said Geddes.
The county court also approved adding a sheriff’s office dispatcher for the next fiscal year, said Wolfe.
“It will give us a minimum of two dispatchers, 24-7,” said Wolfe.
The sheriff’s budget – like all county departments – will be finalized in June.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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