Schenectady makes major changes to Code Enforcement Bureau

April 16, 2018 11:15 PM

SCHENECTADY – Three years after a fire at a building on Jay Street killed four people in Schenectady, the city is making major changes to its buildings department.


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"We just don't want to duplicate anything like that in the city or anywhere for that matter,” said Schenectady City Council President Ed Kosiur.


Monday night at a City Council Committee meeting Kosiur said he wants to bring back the Administrative Efficiency Committee.


“I just thought it was very important to bring this committee back,” said Kosiur. “We’re going to be meeting on a regular basis, every month, the second Monday of every month, we're going to bring in different department heads from within the City of Schenectady to come and talk to us and give the council updates on what’s happening within their department."


Kosiur said first up to meet is the city’s Buildings Department, which is comprised of code enforcement and the building inspector’s office.


This all comes after that Jay Street fire. Officials said at the time of the fire, the city code enforcement officer, Kenneth Tyree, failed to report that the building fire alarm system was not operational. He inspected the building the day before the fire.


The Building manager, Jason Sacks, also failed to maintain the fire detection system on the property and the building lacked fire doors.


"We've made very substantial progress in the last several months,” said Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens, who was hired in Oct. 2017. “We’re going to continue to do that until we get the job done,” he added.


In April, a Grand Jury Report had eight specific recommendations for code enforcement to follow. The report saying numerous failures from the system contributed to the four deaths and injuries in that fire.


The Buildings Department has already made some of the changes. The department has contracted with a company called Compliance Engine. The department will receive immediate notification if an alarm system is canceled or terminated.


The hiring policy has also been revised and there will be more training for employees.


“We brought back an entire code enforcement officer, part time, to conduct training so all of our officers will be trained in the same manner so that we’ll have consistent enforcement of the law across the entire city,” said Commissioner Eidens.


To date, the department is already seeing progress.


"As of right now I can tell you there are no outstanding code violations in the city, zero," added Eidens.


Officials said they want the community to know they’re working to make sure mistakes don’t happen again.


"We want to make sure the community understands the Buildings Department is well run, code enforcement is fair, uniform and effective," explained Eidens.


Another change that would need City Council’s approval, that members seemed interested in Monday night, is enacting a city ordinance that conforms to New York State law and requires inspections of multiple dwellings at least every three years.


Right now, they’re only done in the city if there is a change in tenant.


Emily De Vito

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