SCHENECTADY — The city Codes Department is preparing to launch a new software program that city officials say will boost the number of field inspections conducted by officers.
The software, Municity 5, is projected to increase the daily time spent in the field by officers to four hours from the current three, said Chief Building Inspector Christopher Lunn, who estimated rollout would be complete within the next several weeks.
Under the new system, complaints will come into a generic email address to which several administrators will have access, he said. Then one of the 11 full-time code officers will be dispatched to the scene.
The program utilizes a cloud-based system, allowing building inspectors and code enforcement officers to access property information on their tablet or mobile device when they’re in the field, replacing having to return to the office to look up relevant information.
Eventually the program will incorporate in-car printers, which can be used to print violation notices and other documents on the spot.
“Hopefully within six months, they will be printing the actual notice right there,” Lunn said.
Municity is based in Red Hook, Dutchess County.
Amsterdam, Gloversville and Troy are also taking advantage of the program, which is funded through a $558,000 grant from the state Department of State and requires a 10 percent match from each city.
Schenectady has paid $21,000 to launch the program and will be required to pay $41,000 annually to maintain the service.
Property information can also be shared across participating municipalities.
Lunn said increased time in the field will yield greater productivity “which will directly correlate to an increase of calls, notices and documentation that will all need to be addressed.”
The City Council’s Finance Committee approved his request on Monday to authorize hiring an additional clerical aide at $31,428 annually to help deal with the projected influx, a measure which now heads to the full City Council next week.
Creating the position would be a “clear choice,” Lunn said, and would help relieve the burden.
Lunn also is exploring realigning how code enforcement zones are mapped out. The current zones mirror trash removal zones, which he doesn’t see as efficient.
“We’re going to look at where the most complaints come from and break them into appropriate zones,” Lunn said.
He estimates doing so will cut back on transit time for officers, each of whom participated in a week-long training program for how to use the new software
Lunn said it was difficult to quantify how many new inspections can be completed as a result of the time savings.
Councilman Vince Riggi said he heard “pros and cons” about the new software and asked Lunn if he felt confident in its ability to deliver as promised.
Lunn acknowledged any new system has “growing pains.”
“I’m very confident [Municity] has worked very hard to generate the product we need,” he said.
The city Codes Department has come under heavy scrutiny since 2015 when an apartment building fire on Jay Street killed four people.
A Schenectady County grand jury report released last year determined “numerous failures” by the city Code Enforcement Office “directly contributed” to the deaths and injuries which occurred at 104 Jay St.
Firefighters reported violations, but the violations were not acted on, according to the report.
Codes employees had testified that they received the Fire Department reports, but the grand jury found no system in place to log, track or ensure issues had been addressed, according to the report.
Following the report, Mayor Gary McCarthy last year said software systems were being put into place to ensure such reports are followed up on.