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City leaves commercial code business

The City of Warren has left the commercial code business.

The Warren City Council last week agreed to contract with a firm to provide the service.

Vince DeJoy, who oversees the codes department for the city, said that the city’s residential building code inspector made a career move and that the city’s part-time commercial inspector and plan reviewer will each be retiring by the end of the year.

Given the amount of training and qualifications that are needed, DeJoy said it is “no easy task to bring a new employee on board.”

So, he said, the city explored the option of a third-party provider “with little-to-no disruption of services” and met with two firms, ultimately making the selection it did.

Councilman Phil Gilbert identified a couple of increased fees and asked what the city might be getting into. He also raised concern about potential turnaround time. DeJoy said that is an issue when city staff take vacation.

“(I) honestly don’t know if we have a choice,” City Manager Nancy Freenock said.

DeJoy explained that the firm guarantees a 24-hour turn around.

Freenock said she doesn’t know if other municipalities are leaving the business too but explained that the city undertook providing the service “due to the delay in response by third party inspectors. Inspections were not being completed in a timely manner and hence building projects were delayed.”

She explained that there is a “lack of trained UCC (uniform construction code) inspectors in western Pennsylvania” and said it’s not clear that the cost of training someone would be recovered.

“The City does not sport sufficient construction projects to justify a full-time employee to handle only UCC related work,” she said. “The fees that the City charged for issuing permits and performing inspections were not sufficient to make the Codes Department cash flow.”

The department was downsized last year and the city stopped offering the services to the surrounding municipalities.

Other code functions will remain.

“The nuisance ordinance will continue to be enforced by the Police Department as well as the Codes Officials,” she explained. “We are currently interviewing for a full-time Code Official; the City employs one part-time Code Official at this point.”

Pool permits will now be part of the third part provider’s responsibility

“The Blight Program,” Freenock said, “will remain with the Codes Department as property deterioration is addressed through the Property Maintenance Code.”

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