By DOTTY NIST
Walton County has scheduled an Aug. 9 workshop on the topic of the structure of the county code enforcement board.
Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) Chairman Larry Jones said it was his understanding that potential savings to taxpayers was the “compelling reason” for the BCC to hold the workshop.
Jones anticipated that the workshop would be focused on the composition of the county board and whether using a special magistrate to rule on alleged code violations rather than a board would result in reduced expenses to the county.
Florida statute identifies the use of a special magistrate for this purpose as an option for counties if approved by county ordinance. State statute also sets the framework for the composition and operation of code enforcement boards created by local governments.
The Walton County Code Enforcement Board consists of seven members appointed by the BCC, all of whom are residents of the county. Membership of the board includes, at minimum, one architect, one business person, one engineer, one general contractor, one subcontractor, and one realtor. The board meets at least every two months and operates in a quasi-judicial format.
The board has jurisdiction to hear alleged violations of all codes and ordinances in force in the county, including but not limited to the Walton County Land Development Code and building code ordinances.
Code enforcement board members do not receive payment for their service, but an attorney who advises board members and attends all board meetings does receive payment, as does a court reporter who records the board’s proceedings. Parties found to have violated the code are often assessed a fee equal to attorney and court reporter costs for the portion of the meetings devoted to their cases.
District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen said the BCC workshop is part of an effort by the county to look at all boards with an eye to more economical operation.
Pridgen said the question to be investigated is, “How can we reduce cost while keeping the same level of service.”
He noted that the Walton County Value Adjustment Board, which considers reduction of property owners’ taxable values upon request, was replaced with a special magistrate for these hearings, resulting in cost savings.
The workshop will precede the Aug. 9 regular BCC meeting. The workshop has been set for 3 p.m., and the regular meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. The location for both meetings is the South Walton Courthouse Annex.