A visit from the local code enforcement officer doesn’t have to be something to dread.
In fact, David Rudolph wants it to be as informative and helpful as possible for Bethel Park residents.
“I know that ‘code officer’ is in my title, but you don’t want to act like an officer. You want to act like a liaison,” he said about his role with the municipality, which he joined as a staff member at the start of June.
His goal is for potentially unsafe situations to be rectified, and he prefers to start with a friendly approach.
“In a lot of cases, I’m trying to be there in an unofficial capacity, just to let them know there’s an issue. Sometimes, they didn’t know they’re in violation or didn’t know they weren’t in compliance,” Rudolph said. “If we can take care of it that way, that’s the best way to do it.”
From early indications, it appears he’s on the right track.
“In just a couple of weeks, I’ve been able to resolve, I’d say, about half of what the issues and some of the complaints were, simply by talking to somebody,” he said. “In several cases, they’ve had the issue abated before the five days or seven days or whatever we gave them was up. They’ve gotten on it pretty quickly and taken care of it, sometimes right away and before I even leave.”
The Bethel Park Code Enforcement Department is divided into two main responsibilities, with enforcement officers separate responsibilities. Rudolph handles property maintenance, while Vince Kelly takes care of residential building inspection.
Building code official Robert Hicks mostly oversees commercial structures.
“It all revolves around safety. We want to make sure that the homes are safe,” he said, and that applies to yards, too. “When Dave’s out, he looks for swimming pool violations. We want to make sure that the neighborhood kids don’t wander into an unsafe environment.”
Because some language within the municipal code tends to be on the arcane side, Rudolph is willing to offer explanations to property owners, and he carries copies of applicable sections for their edification.
“Not only do they get notice of violation, they’re given the ordinance that corresponds with the violation or the issue at that specific property,” he said. “That’s something I believe very firmly in, indication first and then ultimately getting them into compliance.”
During the spring heading into summer, grass-related violations can be common.
“What we really want to try to do is next year, be on top of that,” Rudolph said, such as sending notifications to property owners in late winter. “Sometimes when people have a vacant lot, they kind of forget about it, so it’s just those simple reminders. And that hopefully stems the tide, and we’re able to get a handle on it moving into grass season.”
While his intent is to help residents bring their properties into compliance, there still are consequences for those who fail to do so.
“We’ll end up issuing a citation if we get to a point where we can’t get anything done,” Rudolph said.