UPDATED: Property nuisances to be handled by one department, if Council approves major overhaul

January 12, 2010

If Akron City Council approves Mayor Don Plusquellic's proposal to merge property and health inspectors under one roof, residents' property nuisance complaints will no longer be bounced around to different departments.

Council will take two week's time to vote on landmark legislation that would combine inspectors of the Akron Health Department and the Public Service Department into one office to be headed by the city's Public Service Director.

The new department will be responsible for such tasks as inspecting and condemning nuisance properties, enforcing all property and housing codes, and levying fines for noncompliance.

Public Service Committee Chair James P. Hurley III said the ward Council members and residents should be pleased with the proposed changes which consolidate services and cut down on confusion as to which city department is responsible for addressing which property nuisance.

"When I first came to Council, I asked 'Why do I have to go to so many department heads to get this property problem looked at?'" Hurley (W-1) said. "Now citizens and we as ward council representatives will only have to deal with one person."

Hurley said he believes Council is in support of the legislation, but wants to have time to read and understand all of the proposed changes to the way things have been done for the last 37 years.

Ward 9 Councilman and Housing Committee Chair Mike Freeman is looking forward to consolidating services. In both capacities on Council he has seen the fragmented responses to housing complaints that delayed addressing constituents' issues in their neighborhoods.

"I was here five minutes when I saw it was not a good work-flow process. We were duplicating services," Freeman said. "This will enable them to perform at higher levels. This will make a huge difference."

The change will not yield any further budget savings from those already realized by voluntary separations and layoffs, but Public Service Director Rick Merolla 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.

Council will discuss the legislation further during the next Public Service Committee meeting at 2 p.m. Monday Jan. 25 after a break for the Martin Luther King Holiday Jan. 18. A vote is expected the evening of the 25th. If approved, Merolla said the shift will take place Feb. 1.