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Massena Town Council objects to code enforcement cost

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MASSENA — Expressing concern about the village’s decision to stop providing code enforcement services, Town Council members are now worried about the cost of appointing an officer.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he finds the option of the town hiring its own code enforcement officer wasteful and unfair.

“It just seems crazy to me for the town to hire its own code enforcement person, to work out of the same office, but if that’s the path we have to take, that’s what we’ll have to do,” Mr. Gray said.

Town Council members voiced surprise and disappointment to learn the village will no longer provide code enforcement for the town.

“The announcement took me by surprise. Code enforcement worked very well up to this point in time, and it’s very perplexing” the village would make these changes, said Councilman Charles A. Raiti.

Councilman John F. Macaulay said he believes village officials made the decision without taking into account town board members’ concerns.

“As far as I’m concerned, it was a unilateral decision,” Mr. Macaulay said. “It’s crazy right now, and I think (the changes are) not best for both communities.”

Mayor James F. Hidy said he did not discuss the issue with town board members in the weeks before Jan. 20, when he emailed them about the decision to no longer provide the service outside the village.

Mr. Macaulay said he expects the town to hire a part-time officer because a full-time position would exceed what the town had paid the village for code enforcement.

“If we do staff it ... I suspect we won’t be able to fund that person for any more money than what we’re paying” the village for code enforcement, he said.

The town has contracted with the village for the past several years to use the services of former Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe and firefighters trained in code enforcement.

Since Mr. Fregoe’s resignation Jan. 22, the village has been relying on its career firefighters trained in code enforcement to handle his former duties.

In the email, Mr. Hidy wrote the village would continue to provide the service outside the village “for a short period of time” until the Town Council could implement an alternative for code enforcement.

The code office changes are “something that right now we’ve elected to go ahead with,” Mr. Hidy said. “There isn’t anything set in stone. We’re trying something new to save costs for the village taxpayers — that’s who we ultimately answer to.”

The village Board of Trustees unanimously passed the motion to stop code enforcement outside the village. Mr. Hidy called it a savings for village taxpayers.

“We’re going to utilize the Fire Department. We’re going to see some savings out of that,” he said.

Mr. Macaulay said he believes the decision was prompted by the town reducing its funding for the code office from 50 to 40 percent.

In its 2012 budget, the town allocated $52,092 for code enforcement, plus an additional $5,000 for fire inspections through the Fire Department. In 2013, the town allocated $35,512 for code enforcement and $5,000 for fire inspections.

Mr. Gray said the town should fund a smaller percentage of the code enforcement office’s budget because the office does far more work in the village than out of it.

In 2012, the code enforcement office issued 60 permits outside the village and 422 permits in the village.

“I think the town is paying more than their fair share at 40 percent, but (to split the funding) 50/50 just isn’t right, and I don’t think the village is ready to admit that yet,” Mr. Gray said.

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