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December 5, 2012

Fraser code enforcement expands to weekends

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — Fraser code enforcement officer Gary Budchuk pulled up to the curb and eyed the gutter on the side of the house.

For a code enforcement officer, it was the ideal situation. After previously notifying the property manager about the problem — in this case, a gutter that was falling off the side of the house — the problem was fixed without him having to issue a ticket.

“We want compliance,” Budchuk said. “We really don’t want to have to write tickets.”

In this case, the job consists of making sure a vacant home is up to par. Other times, the problem is someone throwing food on the ground for birds, but instead attracting rats. Or it could be a noise complaint, a lawn that has been left uncut for too long, snow that needs to be removed or a car parked on the front lawn.

The list of potential ordinance violations goes on. Much of Budchuk’s time on the job is spent responding to residents’ complaints.

Regardless of whether it leads to a violation or not — and often it doesn’t — every complaint is followed up on, which means at least paying a visit to the location.

Driving down another street a few stops later, Budchuk spotted three cars parked across the sidewalk. Driving away from another visit, he saw a bunch of broken windows outside, in another yard. If he wasn’t busy with a full list of complaints, he might have tried to address these issues — along with a  seemingly endless number of others.

But he knows that’s not feasible, given the sheer volume. “You just can’t do it,” he said.

To help make the city’s code enforcement more proactive, Fraser recently added a part-time weekend shift, which will be taken up by the city’s on-call code enforcement officer, Andy Kapusta Jr.

Kapusta, who has filled in for Fraser on an as-needed basis for more than a year, will work about eight to 12 hours per weekend, on Fridays and Saturdays, for at least six months. The city may choose later to extend that time frame.

City Building Official Randy Warunek said Kapusta will field complaints that come in on weekends, but his function primarily will be making the city’s code-enforcement activities more proactive, driving around the city and addressing violations that haven’t been complained about.

In the past, some building contractors have intentionally scheduled unpermitted projects — like putting on a new roof — for weekends because they know Fraser code-enforcement officials weren’t on duty then.

And while the presence of a weekend code enforcement officer will almost certainly generate more revenue in fine money than it will cost, Warunek emphasized that making money isn’t the intent.

“The thing is to be a better code-enforcement department. And that’s going to help the city,” he said. “It just keeps the city cleaner.”

For Fraser code-enforcement officers, a month’s worth of complaints can range from a few dozen during the winter months to more than 100 during the spring and summer. It’s a hefty load that Budchuk addresses while working part-time, Monday through Thursday.

A couple of stops after the vacant house, Budchuk’s white Ford F-150 — the Fraser city emblem and the words “Building Department” visible on the side — drove by another house. Budchuk was following up on another complaint of a house with a pile of metal scrap and car parts outside. It took two prior visits, but the owner has finally removed all of the scrap.

Budchuk, a retired Macomb County sheriff’s deputy, said issuing tickets is a method of last resort.

However, if the owner or tenant responsible continuously fails to take care of the issue, they may end up with fines and probation. In extreme cases, there may be jail time involved.

“People cooperating is just so much easier,” Budchuk said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.