A Merge to Better Serve Residents: Orange County Code Enforcement Joins with Neighborhood Services Division
Orange County Code Enforcement, which works to maintain the quality of local neighborhoods, recently merged with Orange County Neighborhood Services, which also focuses on community improvement. The merger is part of the County’s plan to revamp its approach to code enforcement and gaining compliance. To that end, code enforcement will be re-branded as code compliance, and the merged division will remain named Neighborhood Services.
“The two divisions have always been closely aligned and focused on enhancing neighborhoods, fostering viable communities, reducing blight and connecting residents,” said Jason Reynolds, manager of Neighborhood Services. “With the merger, operations for Code Enforcement will blend and become seamless, providing a foundation of community resources in one cohesive division.”
In a memo to the Board of County Commissioners, Mayor Jerry L. Demings said the County will “gain operational efficiencies” by combining the two divisions. He also noted that an internal assessment of Code Enforcement conducted last year found that there was a need to update the division’s public communications strategy and rebuild relationships both internally and externally with agencies and community partners.
“Historically speaking, code enforcement doesn’t typically conjure the most positive images,” said Orange County Code Inspector Jordan Hodge. “When people hear the word ‘enforcement,’ they think of the long arm of the law raining down, telling them what to do on their property. Conversely, when they think of neighborhood services, they think of public engagement, organizing neighborhoods and grants, which is certainly much more palatable and friendly.”
Reynolds said that the key to building relationships and changing perceptions is through engagement and education. Educating citizens about how codes are meant to address public safety, public health, environmental safety and quality of life issues is critical to helping them understand why compliance is vital. However, the enforcement process, which has proven to be an effective tool, will still be utilized.
It’s about embracing a smarter, more collaborative and more efficient approach to get the end result, which is compliance with the codes,” explained Reynolds. “We’re going to get out into the community, go to local and regional events, meet people where they are comfortable and educate them. Most residents and business owners want to comply with codes but simply don’t understand them.”
Reynolds added that there are good reasons these codes are in place, and helping people understand this will also make them realize that Code Inspectors are genuine in their desire to strengthen their neighborhoods and enhance their quality of life.