For nearly a year and a half Dunsmuir has been without the city employee who used to cruise around town picking up stray dogs, unblocking driveways, and getting residents to clean up blighted front yards.

Okay, so they’re not serious crimes: Front yards filled with junk, constantly barking dogs, a parked car blocking someone’s driveway. Infractions of the law that the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have time to deal with – but still a big headache if it’s your driveway that’s being blocked or you’re next door to that barking dog.

For nearly a year and a half Dunsmuir has been without the city employee who used to cruise around town picking up stray dogs, unblocking driveways, and getting residents to clean up blighted front yards.

“I’ve definitely seen more junk-filled yards since the city lost its nuisance abatement officer,” said Kathy Wallace, a Dunsmuir resident and leading advocate for the reinstatement of a city blight fighter.

Now there’s some good news for Wallace: The city is about to hire a “Code Enforcement Liaison,” also known as a nuisance abatement officer, sometime this fall.

The decision to fill the position wasn’t an easy one: The new employee’s $35,000 annual salary will come out of a budget that’s projected to have a $91,000 deficit this fiscal year.

But the city clearly feels there’s a need for the position: It’s ramping up what used to be a part-time job to a full-time job with benefits.

Whoever gets hired for the position will need a full complement of diplomatic skills. As the official job description puts it, the job requires an ability to “communicate with [the] public in firm but courteous manner.” That is, to persuade some people to act as though they live in a neighborhood with other people around them.

To emphasize the pressing need for the position, Wallace cites the frustration a friend of hers had after being attacked and bitten by a loose pit bull two blocks from her home. With no “Code Enforcement Liaison” person on board at the time, she was told at City Hall that no one could help her. Fortunately, her injuries were fairly minor, and her decision not to undergo painful anti-rabies treatments turned out okay.

Wallace said she avoids walking her dog in some parts of the town where there are dogs running around unrestrained.

“The dog thing is huge,” noted city council member Bruce Deutsch, “and I’m talking about unrestricted dogs that are running around free, biting people.”

In addition to curbing that problem, Deutsch also suggested that the newly hired employee could help with efforts to clear yards of excess vegetation as the city gets more aggressive in dealing with the threat of fast-moving wildfires.

The most frequently heard complaints, though, according to City Hall employees, involve parking issues – not only blocked driveways but cars blocking streets and in no-parking zones – all issues that are off the radar for the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s definitely a step forward for Dunsmuir,” said hardware store owner Ron McCloud, who at his central downtown location hears many of the same nuisance complaints they do at City Hall. “It will make for a more well-rounded law enforcement effort, with this new person being able to deal with problems the Sheriff’s Department can’t.”