Schenectady County

Schenectady tries a gentler approach to addressing code violations

In an effort to highlight a friendlier, gentler code enforcement department, inspectors hit the stre

In an effort to highlight a friendlier, gentler code enforcement department, inspectors hit the streets Monday on an “educational effort.”

Inspectors pointed out less-obvious code violations to homeowners in the Upper Union Street and Central State Street neighborhoods, starting from the assumption that the owners didn’t know they were in violation.

Then, rather than threaten them with a fine, inspectors explained how the violations could be addressed. Inspectors also argued that improvements would raise the value of their property and help the entire neighborhood.

Then the owners were given a written notice of the violation — but not a citation. It was called a courtesy notice, and asked homeowners to fix the issues.

But there were teeth behind the friendliness.

Residents who ignore the courtesy notice and do not repair their houses will face a fine. So will those who harbor unlicensed dogs — Monday’s sweep was also the first day of the dog program.

Teens will be walking the city, looking and listening for signs of dogs as they ring doorbells. Their job isn’t to confront anyone; they simply write down the address of any house with signs of dogs, and if there is no record of a license at that address, the owner will face a fine.

Building Inspector Eric Shilling said training the teens was a big part of Monday’s sweep.

“Today was an effort to get that program kicked off,” he said. “Get them settled in to knocking on doors, asking questions.”

City officials picked an affluent area of town with the teens in mind.

“We just wanted to ease them into an area that was not as challenging as other areas,” Shilling said,

They will now be spread out among the city’s neighborhoods.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he hoped the code sweep would remind homeowners to maintain their houses.

“We’re going to keep going back,” he said.

He also wants the sweeps to change residents’ view of inspectors.

“We don’t want people to view them as adversaries. They’re here to help people,” he said. “We’re giving these polite warning notices. We’re not citing them.”

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