MALONE –– The village’s long-standing problems with its code enforcement efforts boiled to the surface again Monday when several trustees pushed for an increase in personnel in the office, only to run headlong into budget constraints.
Trustees Norm Bonner and Archie McKee called for the addition of as many as two full-time people –– an inspector and a clerk –– to the code office because of the amount of work that office is facing. But Village Treasurer Kristine Lashway noted that the 2020-21 village budget does not contain any provision for adding positions and that there is only a modest amount of money in the budget’s contingency fund -– not enough to pay for even a part-time position and still leave money left for any emergency that might arise.
Bonner, who served as chairman of the village Planning Board before being elected trustee, said he had been pushing for an expansion of the code staff for at least four year because of the demands being placed on the office. And McKee pointed out that more and more of the Village Board’s time was being spent on code-related issues.
“Code is becoming a much larger part of our considerations and deliberations,” McKee said.
The village currently has only a single full-time code enforcement officer. At times in the past, the office has included one full-time officer, a part-time officer and a clerk to deal with the paperwork generated by the officers’ activities.
McKee said the addition of even a single part-time code officer would help the situation, and the money that person could generate through additional fees could cover the cost of the position.
“We have to make some changes,” McKee said. “We’re not getting stuff done.”
The village has gone through nine code enforcement officers in the past eight years. Bob Rowe, the current holder of that position, has served for about two years in a full time capacity after having worked as a part-time officer before that.
“The code department has always been an issue for the village,” Mayor Andrea Dumas said.
The code officer is responsible for making sure the village’s roughly 1,300 residential rental units and 262 businesses comply with safety regulations imposed by both local and state government, Bonner said. Village code mandates that every residential unit is inspected at least once per year –– a time frame that places an impossible burden on the code officer, he said.
“We are not, at this point, meeting our obligations,” Bonner said.
State law only requires that the inspections be conducted every three years, he noted. Village officials are considering changing the local law to match the state requirement, a move they say would offer welcome relief to the code office.
Bonner also noted that the village could be held liable if a disaster occurred because it had fallen behind on its code enforcement. The legal costs alone in that situation would be far more than the cost of bringing on another person, he said.
Dumas said she would ask Rowe to draw up a plan that would look at both the duties of an added code enforcement officer and the revenues such a position might raise before the board made any decision on creating a new position.