Categories: Schenectady County
According to housing inspector Luis Aguero, an effective code enforcement team can help with the safety of residents and also help to beautify the city.
“It is one of the biggest quality-of-life issues next to public safety,” he said.
The administration of new Mayor Ann Thane has promised to be strong on code enforcement and help eliminate some of the neighborhood blight in the city.
Aguero said the last three mayors have been strong on code enforcement and the city has made some strides when it comes to demolishing some of the city’s rundown properties.
The last administration finally adopted a building code, something Aguero said he spent five years pushing through. They city also demolished 24 buildings last year using a $600,000 grant from the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.
Aguero said although there have been some positives, the Housing and Code Enforcement Department is struggling to address a lot of the complaints it receives.
The previous administration unanimously voted to eliminate the position of building inspector from the city’s charter at the request of former city engineer Mike Clark for the 2006-07 budget year. Aguero said the remaining three staff members have had to do more building and zoning work and less housing work because of that change. The department gets about 20 complaints per week.
“We are lucky if we can address five of those,” Aguero said.
Alderwoman Kim Brumley, C-3rd Ward, said she would be in favor of looking into renewing the building inspector position if its elimination was the main reason for the problems in the department.
One of the reasons the city is facing problems with codes is because of the lack of investment in the city, Aguero said. Most of the large incomes have left and so people are unable to afford to keep up their properties. Also, Aguero said, he is seeing more out-of-town landlords buy property in the city, some of which are not compliant with the city’s code regulations and are unwilling to cooperate with enforcement officials.
“Some of these landlords own up to 90 properties in the city and they only have maybe two guys maintaining them,” he said.
Thane is working to get the courts to hear code enforcement cases once a week instead of once a month. Aguero said that would help close cases faster. Aguero is also pleased that the mayor is being proactive when it comes to a plan for demolishing buildings. Aguero has submitted a memo to Thane detailing almost 70 properties that he believes need to come down.
“I am going to be happy once we have a plan and once I see that plan implemented,” he said.