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Ford City explores beefing up code enforcement

| Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, 1:11 a.m.

Ford City may add a compliance officer to its roster to help clean up the borough.

Ford City contracts with Lawrence County's Richardson Inspection Services to issue building permits and enforce building codes. A compliance officer would enforce codes to make sure residents keep their grass cut, put fences around swimming pools and keep junk cars from the streets.

“These codes are the essence of a community,” Mayor Marc Mantini said recently. “Richardson's not here to do the daily non-compliance. The best thing is to get somebody here that knows this stuff.”

Mantini said he will request that discussion of hiring a compliance officer be includedon the agenda for the council's Sept. 8 meeting.

Richardson Inspection Services has looked into code violations when asked, but company owner Jeff Richardson said he's not able to provide the constant code enforcement presence that a compliance officer could.

“When you roll into a municipality, for them to throw three, five or 10 extra stops on you, it wreaks havoc on your day,” Richardson said. “It was my opinion they might be better served with a part-time or full-time guy that could accommodate them and follow up on complaints.”

Ford City had a code enforcement officer until 2012, when Fred Dzugan resigned. He was paid $10,000 a year. His absence has been noticed by council.

“It looks like heck. The town looks like a junkyard,” Councilwoman Vicki Schaub said. “And there are safety issues.”

She cited about 30 swimming pools put up without the required fences around them and said she was worried that such violations could lead to someone getting hurt.

“And it will be on our heads, because nobody did anything about it,” she said.

A part-time code enforcement official collaborating with borough staff and police would go a long way toward cleaning up the town, Mantini said.

“If you had someone come down here two days a week, it would be sufficient,” he said. “The best thing is to get somebody that knows this. I want things done right down here.”

Pennsylvania requires no certification for a compliance officer. Municipalities usually look for someone familiar with zoning and codes, said Ed Knittel, an education specialist at the State Association of Boroughs.

Richardson said he would be happy to train someone to enforce borough codes. But it would be best if they had prior knowledge, he said.

“If they need my assistance with a compliance officer, I'd be happy,” he said. “If they wanted to come with me while I'm in town, they could shadow me. That would work fine.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or jmartin@tribweb.com.

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