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March 28, 2020

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Clark County to create code-enforcement department

Director of Community Development Department set to lead new office

By , Columbian breaking news reporter
Published:

Clark County will establish a Code Administration Department, which will assume several tasks currently assigned to the county Community Development Department.

The changes are scheduled to take effect Jan. 2. County Community Development Director Mitch Nickolds will head the Code Administration Department, while county Interim Fire Marshal Dan Young will lead the Community Development Department.

“This is another step toward our goal of reforming the building permitting and inspection processes in order to increase efficiency and consistency,” County Manager Shawn Henessee said in a news release. “Separating the responsibilities of these services will allow Dan and Mitch to apply more focused attention to improving the processes.”

County officials are still determining the budgets that will be allocated to each department in 2020, Nickolds said. The departments will be located on the third floor of the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St., Vancouver.

Code Administration will be responsible for code enforcement, the Clark County Fire Marshal’s office, geographic information services and animal protection and control. It will have 54 employees, Nickolds said.

Nickolds took charge of the Community Development Department in June 2018 and previously was an assistant building official with the county. Before those jobs, Nickolds managed inspection services divisions for the cities of Portland and Pasco.

“The new directorship is appealing to me as I have extensive experience working in and managing code enforcement and community enhancement programs and services,” Nickolds said in an email.

The changes will expedite improvements to the code enforcement and animal control programs and streamline building and development permitting, Nickolds added. “Functionally speaking, the division of the departments will not change much outwardly.”

A consultant’s report released in March 2018 identified a lengthy list of issues with the county’s permitting process, with customers and stakeholders describing it as unpredictable, inconsistent and sluggish. Former Community Development Director Marty Snell resigned abruptly one month after the report was issued and two months before Nickolds assumed the role.

In 2018, the county’s animal control service was almost entirely restaffed.

Nickolds abruptly fired longtime animal control manager Paul Scarpelli in May of that year for consuming a beer at an event while representing the county. Scarpelli said that he was not on the clock at the time.

A month later, Nickolds fired three of five animal control officers, as well as a code enforcement officer and two office staff, for their involvement in an unsanctioned work-day gathering to commiserate with Scarpelli over his firing. The employees drank alcohol at the event.

The Community Development Department will continue to oversee building safety, permits, land use, wetlands and habitats, development engineering, business technology and administration and finance. The seven programs will consist of 85 employment positions, Nickolds said.

The fire marshal and his deputies investigate fires and their causes. Prior to becoming interim fire marshal, Young was the building inspections manager in the county’s Building Safety program. He has also worked in the State Fire Marshal’s Office and as a building inspector for Clark County and the city of Battle Ground.

Young will continue as the fire marshal until a replacement is hired.

“I decided to take the position of the community development director to help facilitate the streamlining of the building process from land use to permitting to building completion,” Young said in an email.

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