The city of Erie’s code enforcement officers will soon receive a $200,000 boost from state government.
Kathy Wyrosdick, the city’s director of planning and neighborhood resources, confirmed that the city of Erie’s application for a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant – aimed at streamlining operations and improving efficiency for the city employees who track blighted properties and investigate code violations, among other tasks – has been approved.
The state funding, as well as $20,000 in city funds that is a required 10% match for the grant, would be used to both purchase new computer equipment for code enforcement operations and to hire a consultant to handle a comprehensive technology assessment focused on the city’s code enforcement office.
That office enforces housing and building codes for the roughly 38,000 structures within city limits.
The Erie Times-News reported in November that city officials were pursuing the grant.
“We are very much committed to using this $220,000, which includes the grant and the city match, to help code enforcement officers do their jobs better and provide a higher level of service to the community,” Wyrosdick said.
“I don’t want people thinking this is the end of the transformation of code enforcement though or that this solves everything,” Wyrosdick said. “We have a lot of ideas to build capacity in code enforcement and property maintenance, and this is one piece of it.”
The upgrade plan has the support of Mayor Joe Schember and Erie City Council.
Wyrosdick previously explained that the money will aid code enforcement because the office’s employees currently use several different computerized systems that are not integrated.
City officials want to develop a streamlined process which allows code enforcement officers to track and access information about blighted properties, permits, violation notices, demolitions and other relevant data, especially in the field.
The upgrades also align with recommendations from Public Financial Management Inc., the Philadelphia-based consulting firm that helped the city develop a long-range plan to stabilize its finances as part of the state’s Early Intervention Program for financially struggling cities.
In a report delivered to city officials in February, PFM recommended the city prioritize technology upgrades for its five full-time code enforcement workers.
“The City currently does not have a robust performance tracking system, in part due to software limitations. The current software does not hold all historical information, cannot generate reports, and does not allow the City to track staff time in a way that facilitates Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) reimbursement,” PFM’s report states.
Wyrosdick said city officials will now move forward with requesting proposals from consultants who would both assess the department’s technology needs and recommend equipment.
“We hope to have that RFP out the first week of February, and we would be looking to vet applicants and hire someone sometime in mid-March,” Wyrosdick said.
In the future, city officials will look for similar state grant funding for technology assessments/equipment upgrades in other city departments, Wyrosdick said.