Outsourcing City Services: Hallandale Beach Budget Stabilization - Privatization Vs. In-House Services

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

May 26, 2022

This Article is Part III of my State Of The City. It is written in Speech Form. It was delivered In-Person and hosted by The Chamber of Commerce at the Flamingo Room located at Gulfstream Park.

I am continuing with Budget Stabilization proposals and discussions of privatization Vs. In-House Services.

At that meeting I also brought up once more the issue of outsourcing our Fire Department. These moves always create unintended consequences. This issue came with a minimum $1.4 Million Dollars cost that we know of. Many contract cities have been holding meetings to find the underlying cause of the costs. Cities like Pembroke Park are even getting out of their BSO Police Contracts. They are simply not sustainable.

It has been extremely difficult to get information as we do not control BSO Staff. The Commission thought that we would get better service and more coverage but actually we received a Safer Fire Grant to add Staffing.

Just to be clear, while we pay the contract, we still pay for Fire Equipment, Trucks, Building Improvements and still must pay Legacy Pension Dollars. The Fire Fees on our Taxes help to offset the building and equipment costs. The rest comes from our General Fund. Simply put it is not about boots on the ground, our First Responders are amazing! We are paying to have someone else manage that Department.

As part of our Stabilization Program, we are rolling out a new Certificate Of Use Program this year. This Program will help us to know who specifically owns properties. We have been spending Staff Time and Resources trying to track down owners of properties.

While every new building gets an Original CO (certificate of occupancy) Properties can change hands, we need to make sure each building is used for its intended purpose. The Registration will give Staff tools to help Code Enforcement. Which we have been beefing up. Sadly, over the past years Staffing Levels were cut. Since COVID-19, we have added positions and we have a new Director, Mitch Posner. While it is counterintuitive to add positions in a struggling budget it is actually better. The nature of Violations and Fines generate Revenue to pay for the positions.

There is another issue that has shown a bright light on how vital Code Enforcement is; The tragedy of Champlain Towers in Surfside. South Florida at least has a Building Safety Program. The problem is that cities were not following through and even if they were, the condominiums were not maintaining the buildings nor paying for much needed repairs.

I was fortunate to serve on the Broward County Building Safety Taskforce that was established by Broward County Mayor Steve Geller. We were one of many groups looking at these regulations and how they could be improved. Sadly, the State Legislators did not make any changes. Many counties around the State are now taking the issues on themselves.

On the National Level, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Congressman Charlie Christ have proposed a Bill to help Low-Income Seniors with finding a source to pay for Condominium Repairs. The new Program would allow borrowers to apply for Loans up to $55,000 and other modifications through The Housing And Urban Development Department.

This still does not address inspections nor the shortage of Inspectors. Our Building Staff has not stopped over the past two years. Remember this was not part of the COVID-19 Pandemic’s Restrictions. Our Department just keeps having more work and duties.

We understand how important these services are and continue to make improvements. We have fully upgraded to an On-Line system. All Permits now can be done from start to finish without even going into City Hall. I mentioned earlier about Staffing. In this Department in particular even before COVID-19 we had empty positions. Once again, not filling positions where fees for service pay for building which is not a good management practice. Staff continues to fill positions but there is simply a shortage of inspectors. Even with Contracting outside Providers, it is still a challenge.

This is where Residents and Businesses can help us help you. First you cannot do anything without a Permit. The last thing you want to do is, as they say, ask for forgiveness rather than permissions. Hire only trained, Licensed Contractors and Professionals. YES, There is a process. Permits are filed and they go into a Review Cycle. If there is missing information, the Permit must go through the Cycle again. I have seen this happen over and over again. The Contractor blames us, but in reality, they should know the requirements.
I know that last year I was getting a call or E-Mail a day about Building Permits which have calmed down a bit. What is really great about the On-Line System is just that! Everything is On-Line, so you can see what is missing and what the Contractor needs to do!

Our Building Official Shellie Jackson, is an extremely knowledgeable, professional individual who is actually a successful Contractor in her own right. I have seen her and Our Staff often going above and beyond what is required.

I will continue with State Of The City in next week's Article.

As always, feel free to contact me anytime with your questions, concerns and ideas on how to make our City a great place to live, work and play! I am available by Phone or Text At: (954) 632-5700. E-mail me At: jcooper@cohb.org. Or visit my Facebook & Web-site At: www.MayorJoyCooper.com.