Beginning Feb. 1, Akron residents will only have to call one office to report neighborhood nuisances like high grass and junk cars.
That's because Akron City Council Monday night passed four key pieces of legislation which together merge the inspectors of the Akron Health Department and the Department of Public Service into one office. The inspectors, to be housed under the Public Service Department, will consolidate their expert backgrounds to more efficiently address environmental, health and quality-of-life issues in the city.
Public Service Committee Chair James P. Hurley III said the long overdue change will mean that residents' property complaints will be addressed faster and more efficiently.
"The four pieces of legislation passed today are indented to transfer the housing and environmental sanitation inspection responsibilities from the Health Department to the Service Department, eliminating delays in addressing serious health and safety issues that our constituents constantly bring to our attention," Hurley (W-1) said. "This is a continuation of an initiative put in place by the Mayor two years ago to beef up nuisance inspections and make the process more efficient. No new staff and no extra expense are involved."
The change will not yield any further budget savings from those already realized by voluntary separations and layoffs, but Hurley said consolidation will allow the city to maintain the same services with fewer people than it had in September when the staff cuts took place.
Under the new rules, inspectors from the Health, Housing and Public Service departments will enforce city codes and be able to address all potential issues involving one property in one stop. Previously, enforcement was divided among the three divisions, whose inspectors would be required to make separate visits to address issues which fell only under their respective offices.
Enforcement tasks previously handled by the Health Department to be transferred to Public Service include housing inspections, issuing notices to remove litter and junk vehicles, and ordering certain dwellings to be demolished or condemned.
Ward 9 Councilman and Housing Committee Chair Mike Freeman is especially pleased to see the consolidation of inspection services. Now, he said, he hopes Akron Police and other city employees also will have less bureaucracy to endure in order to report nuisances they may see as a function of their daily jobs.
"I hear from citizens who ask 'why do the police drive by that junk car ten times a day and not report it?' Freeman said. "While these are not police matters, I hope the idea of integrating all of these departments will create an environment in which the police and other city employees can more easily report violations they see."
Residents may still report suspected health and safety violations and property nuisances by calling 3-1-1 from a residential phone line, (330) 375-2311 from a cellular or office telephone or online at https://online.akronohio.gov/311/.