This week we have a story in which City Manager Tom Luttrell explains plans for filling vacancies among department heads in city government.

Part of that plan involves making changes in the Code Enforcement office following the departure of Adam Ackor. Luttrell would like the incoming city planner to be the department head for a planner/code enforcement department. He said he then plans to work with other neighboring towns to share an assistant code enforcement officer who would work part-time in Rockland.

In addition, the city manager said he plans to negotiate an inter-local agreement to share assessing services with Camden and Rockport.

In some ways this reflects what we are seeing throughout the community. Businesses everywhere are crying out for employees. The result for now is the unusual situation in which the workers have a bit of power over employers, and they may be able to leverage that at some point for better wages and benefits that are probably long overdue. In this way, government jobs may not be so different from the private sector.

However, it is important the Code Office is configured so that the city asserts the power to enforce local ordinances and codes. There have been rumblings in the community that this may not be happening. Certainly, in driving around certain parts of towns, one can see homes that are in bad disrepair and others that have so much junk in their yards as to pose a threat to health and safety.

Part of the key to having teeth when it comes to city codes is having the ability to take violations to court, and that requires strong and well-used attorneys.

Back some years ago, we eliminated the city attorney position and began to contract services. Prior to that, having an in-house city attorney meant that code issues could quickly be taken to court and dealt with. It also meant that city councilors working on ordinance changes could very easily work with counsel to create meaningful legislation.

On the other hand, it could certainly be argued that many local municipalities contract out for legal services. An in-house city attorney may be appropriate for the county seat and a service center like Rockland, but it also may be a bit of a luxury.

However, contracted attorneys need to be fully utilized when push comes to shove. It is good not to waste money on needless litigation, but it is also important to protect local safety and property values.

We hope city leaders will keep that in mind as they work on plans to deal with vacancies.