Wheeling Eyes New Technology To Aid Code Enforcement – Wheeling Intelligencer

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Oct 26, 2021
WHEELING — Wheeling city officials want to enhance efficiency and the overall capabilities of the city’s building code enforcement division by upgrading technology.
Next week, a second reading is expected to be held before Wheeling City Council, adopting a new ordinance to enter into an agreement with two agencies — Property Registration Campions LLC or ProChamps and Property Pilot LLC or GovPilot.
The legislation authorizes City Manager Robert Herron to negotiate and execute service agreements with the agencies to assist the Wheeling Building and Planning Department.
The city issued requests for proposals in June while seeking more modern systems to help with code enforcement, according to Tom Connelly, director of Building and Planning for the city of Wheeling.
“As you know, code enforcement touches each of your wards — some more than others,” Connelly explained to council members when the legislation received its first reading. “What we’re looking to do is to improve on our approach, and what this will do is allow these two different entities to assist us.”
Connelly said ProChamps specializes in identifying and registering vacant buildings. A recent demonstration of the ProChamps system showed city officials how the agency uses federal, state and local resources, as well as online databases, to identify properties that should be registered as vacant.
“During their demonstration, they actually identified a good number more than we currently have registered,” Connelly noted. “We feel that their value will definitely add to our program.”
The ProChamps system identifies both vacant and foreclosed properties, and there is a module available that can also identify rental properties, officials indicated.
GovPilot is a system that specializes in code enforcement, Connelly explained.
“What this will do is equip our enforcement officers in the field with tablets that they can take photographs with and document incidents based on sections of our code to help automate the workflow, produce letters, automate letters and link to a calendar,” he said, noting that the tablets themselves are not part of the service plan and will have to be purchased by the department.
The automated system helps make sure a scheduled follow-up on any particular incident takes place, and operations such as mailing of second letters are sent out to property owners in violation of city codes — from those related to accumulation of trash to violations of dilapidated buildings.
“It will speed up enforcement,” Connelly said, noting that the system utilizes an app that is mobile-friendly. “The GovPilot feature also offers an improved citizen engagement tool for any complaints that come through.”
Connelly noted that the system is more focused than the city’s current 311 non-emergency reporting system, which is a city-wide system. Citizens using the 311 system can report various concerns — from potholes to dead animals on the side of the road. The 311 system provides notices to the appropriate departments — whether it be an issue to be addressed by the health department, police department or other city agency.
The GovPilot system is specific to code enforcement, Connelly said.
“It will definitely help the department in its code enforcement activities if council is supportive of it and does move to approve it.” he said. “There is approximately a six- to eight-week implementation timeline with it if it is approved. But it is definitely something that we are looking forward to implementing.”
According to Connelly, the implementation time involves integrating information from the city’s database into the system, as well as a training period on the new system for code enforcement personnel.
Wheeling City Council is expected to consider the legislation’s adoption during its next meeting, which is scheduled for noon on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
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