WHEELING – Wheeling City officials aim to improve the efficiency and overall capacity of the department to enforce city building codes by upgrading technology.
A second reading is expected to take place next week before the Wheeling City Council, where a new ordinance will be passed to finalize an agreement with two agencies – Property Registration Campions LLC or ProChamps and Property Pilot LLC or GovPilot.
Legislation empowers City Manager Robert Herron to negotiate and execute service contracts with the agencies to support the Wheeling Building and Planning Department.
Wheeling City’s director of construction and planning, Tom Connelly, said the city launched tenders in June while looking for more modern systems to help enforce codes.
“As you know, enforcement of the code affects each of your counties – some more than others,” Connelly told councilors when the law got its first reading. “We want to improve our approach and that will allow these two different entities to support us.”
Connelly said ProChamps specializes in identifying and registering vacant buildings. A recent demonstration of the ProChamps system showed city officials how the agency uses federal, state and local resources, as well as online databases, to identify properties that should be reported as empty.
“They actually identified a lot more during their demonstration than we are currently registering,” noted Connelly. “We believe their value will definitely add to our program.”
The ProChamps system identifies both vacant and forcibly closed properties, and a module is available that can also identify rental properties, officials said.
GovPilot is a system that specializes in code enforcement, Connelly explained.
“This will provide our on-site enforcement officers with tablets that they can use to take photos and document incidents based on sections of our code to automate the workflow, create letters, automate letters and link them to a calendar,” he said. It should be noted that the tablets themselves are not part of the service plan and must be purchased by the department.
The automated system helps ensure that certain incidents are followed up in a planned manner and that processes such as sending second letters to property owners are sent in violation of city regulations – from the accumulation of rubbish to violations of dilapidated buildings.
“It will speed enforcement,” said Connelly, noting that the system uses a mobile-friendly app. “The GovPilot function also offers an improved instrument for citizen participation for all incoming complaints.”
Connelly found the system to be more focused than the city’s current 311 non-emergency reporting system, which is a city-wide system. Citizens using the 311 system can report a variety of concerns – from potholes to dead animals on the side of the road. The 311 system informs the responsible departments – regardless of whether it is a problem that needs to be dealt with by the health department, the police or another city authority.
The GovPilot system is specific to code enforcement, Connelly said.
“It will definitely help the department in their code enforcement activities if the council supports and approves it,” he said. “There’s roughly a six to eight week implementation period if approved. But it is definitely something that we look forward to implementing. “
According to Connelly, the implementation time includes integrating information from the city’s database into the system, as well as training the new system for regulatory enforcement personnel.
Wheeling City Council is expected to consider passing the bill during its next session, scheduled for Tuesday, November 2nd at noon.
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