The proposed budget cut for the Metro Codes Department will mean less property standards inspectors on the streets in Nashville, leading Executive Director Terry Cobb to admit there will be a “definite impact.”
Mayor Karl Dean’s budget proposal included a 10 percent cut to the codes department, which will come in the form of the elimination of 12 full-time positions. Ten of those positions are currently vacant, but two layoffs will be property standards inspectors. Two other inspectors were recently let go, Cobb said at the department’s Metro Council budget hearing last week.
That will leave the codes department with 13 property standards inspectors for the upcoming budget year, whereas it worked with 17 this year. Property standards inspectors oversee codes enforcement throughout Nashville and are responsible for things like sign enforcement and environmental violations like a warn-down roof or overgrown lawn.
District 21 Councilwoman Edith Langster pleaded with Cobb to consider reinstating a property standards inspector, but Cobb said it would be up to Council to determine if the department operated within its budget proposal or not.
After the elimination of the 12 positions, the codes department will have 85 full-time staff members. Cobb said there were 97 when he took over the department in 1990.
“Obviously when we lose 12 from our staffing level it has an impact,” Cobb said. There’s no doubt it will have an impact.”
District 4 Councilman Michael Craddock suggested that Codes was on the verge of becoming management-heavy and said the emphasis should be on inspectors in the street and not office workers.
“At some point somehow we’ve got to figure out a way to stop getting the little guy and we’ve got to start getting into management,” Craddock said. “Because if we don’t get into management, they’re not going to have anyone to manage, so they’re going to be top heavy. They’re going to have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”
Other Council members, including District 19 Councilwoman Erica Gilmore said it was critical that Codes continue its enforcement in the downtown core of the city.
Cobb said the department “may not be as nimble and it may not be as quick, but we’re still going to jump over the candlestick.”
The staff reductions come in advance of Metro Council overhauling the sign ordinance to potentially allow Light Emitting Diode (LED) signs by special exception in almost every zoning district. At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry has expressed concerns in the past that the codes department has difficulty enforcing the current ordinance. She has said she is worried that allowing more LED signs would only hurt enforcement even more.