GEORGETOWN — Calling it a priority, Town Council is proposing to not fill a vacant clerk position in exchange for additional manpower in code enforcement.
“I was hoping that instead of filling that position at this point in time, we could divert that money into a code enforcement officer. I think that is needed much more at this point in time,” said Ward 3 Councilwoman Angela Townsend during council’s Wednesday meeting.
“Especially with the rental inspections going on, I’d like to see somebody hired that would hit the ground running, get familiar with the town, because they’re going to have a big task in front of them. Instead of hiring a financial clerk, a cashier for the front window, the girls at Town Hall could cover for a while until we hire a new code enforcement officer at this time.”
Vice Mayor Penuel Barrett, who conducted the meeting in the absence of Mayor Bill West, agreed, saying, “I think we need to hold up a little bit before we hire that position. We know code enforcement is an issue, and talking to our code enforcer (Michael Picarello), he does need help. So I think that we need to look at our options before we jump into something that we are not sure is going to be the right thing to do.”
Council also is seeking to remove GPS from town vehicles as a savings to support the code enforcement initiative.
“At this time, we have roughly 38 GPS units — in every vehicle the town has. Our bill for approximately 12 months is around $8,500. We’ve got to find money to put toward the salary of another code enforcer,” said Vice Mayor Barrett.
Town Manager Eugene Dvornick said the GPS system the town uses is “through state contract, (and is) the same system (the Delaware Department of Transportation) was using and other municipalities, as well.”
“All of the vehicles that received GPS units were identified individually by the department heads, whether they wanted it on a vehicle or not,” he added.
Vice Mayor Barrett told council members that, after speaking to Verizon and two department heads about GPS, he formulated a request to be considered next month.
“I would like to cancel the GPSs in all the town vehicles. We’re spending a lot of money for nothing. I’d like to see us vote on this topic at our next council meeting,” said the vice mayor, who added that town police officers’ vehicles are tracked by the dispatch center, which “pretty much keeps an eye on what they are doing.”
Councilwoman Sue Barlow said she also thinks the GPS service should go.
“I don’t think it is something we need,” she said. “We’re a small town. I guarantee you if somebody saw one of the Georgetown vehicles in a place it wasn’t supposed to be, we’d hear about it.”
However, Councilwoman Christina Diaz-Malone — who serves with Vice Mayor Barrett and non-council members Linda Dennis and Cassie Asher on the committee addressing rental housing inspection and enforcement issues — said citizens of Georgetown have the right to know where these cars are.
“These are their cars, and they have the right to know where these cars are. So if there is a system that already tells us where these cars are, then I would agree with you that this is an expense that we need to look at,” she said. “I am extremely concerned about the budget simply because we didn’t budget for (another code enforcer). And yet, as we march through these code enforcement issues, (Mr. Picarello) is saying he could use possibly two people. So we have to think in terms of priority and risk management.”
Councilwoman Townsend and Vice Mayor Barrett both said GPS apparently has come into play only once for tracking town equipment — in an incident with another vehicle.
“If people are worried about where our town vehicles are, to me, that is the responsibility of department heads, to know where their employees are, what they are doing and where the town vehicles are,” Councilwoman Townsend said. “I think we just need to cancel the GPS on all the vehicles.”
Mr. Picarello is the town’s one code officer. Contacted by phone Monday afternoon, he declined to comment on council’s plans.