POLAND – The town issued a record 810 permits last year, prompting the need for additional staff in the Code Enforcement Office.

Selectman David Corcoran insisted that a town employee be available during regular office hours to meet growing public demand.

“My only criteria is that there is a real person answering the phones and that someone is available to answer questions during the time that’s posted,” said Corcoran.

The town’s 2004-05 budget allows for $15,000 to fund a half-time assistant to Code Enforcement Officer Art Dunlap, who had requested full-time help.

An additional full-time employee would cost the town $30,665, Town Manager Richard Chick said.

“The problem is trying to get timely inspections and still have someone in the office to answer questions,” said Chick. “The secretary can answer a lot of the questions, but there are some that she can’t.”

Dunlap holds a salaried position at $40,897. He said he goes on four to 12 inspections a day and normally works between 50 and 60 hours. He said he has accrued six weeks of vacation, which he has been unable to take.

“I’ve started taking Fridays off instead of trying to take a vacation all at once,” said Dunlap. “If I was gone a whole week, I’d have such a backlog, I’d never catch up.”

Dunlap also is obligated to attend Board of Selectmen and Planning Board meetings each Tuesday evening.

The Code Enforcement Office has a part-time secretary scheduled for 15 hours a week at $9,076 on an hourly basis, said Chick. That employee works another 25 hours a week for the Planning Board at $15,126.

“Expectations are rising, but staff isn’t increasing with the rate of growth,” said Chick. “Everyone is doing the best they can. Sometimes we can’t be all things to all people.”

Code enforcement hours currently are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dunlap performs inspections from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and between 2 and 5 p.m. He also makes appointments outside the posted hours.

When Dunlap started six years ago, his work peaked in the summer construction season and tapered off during the winter. At that time, the town was dealing with about half the number of inspections and permits as it is now.

“Now, I’m just as busy in the winter as in the summer,” said Dunlap. “Since this position became full time in 1989, the work load has gone about three times.”

Dunlap pointed to town records that show a sharp increase in new homes at the same time Poland Regional High School was approved. Between 1996 and 1997, total permits issued jumped 63 percent from 309 to 504.

The high school opened in 1999 when permits increased to 626. Since then, the number of total permits has steadily increased to last year’s record 810. Poland has gained 323 additional homes between 1999 and 2003, according to Dunlap’s records.

Final numbers for this year won’t be in until June 30 but looks to be in line with 2002’s total of 717, said Dunlap. In May alone, there were 105 permits, he added.

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