Village Building Department to get organizational review

Amidst staffing troubles at the village’s Building Department, a new organizational assessment by the consulting firm Arcadis may help if approved by the Board of Trustees. File Photo

Amidst staffing troubles at the village’s Building Department, a new organizational assessment by the consulting firm Arcadis may help if approved by the Board of Trustees. File Photo

At a time when the Village of Mamaroneck can’t keep consistent staff in its Building Department, a potential proposal by an outside consulting firm may help relieve many of the department’s woes.

A proposal by the consulting firm Arcadis may take an in-depth look at the Building Department’s staffing structure, organization and permit application process if the Board of Trustees chooses to hire the company.

The decision to possibly employ a consulting group comes on the tail end of continuous controversy surrounding the building inspector position within the department, in particular, a recent indefinite suspension of the department’s lead inspector and  a rotation of leadership for more than three years.

The proposal was discussed at the Aug. 4 trustees work session, but was put on the back burner to negotiate total price and work, according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, who said it would most likely appear again at the Sept. 2 work session.

Slingerland, who described the Building Department as “in transition,” said the village hopes to bring modern and efficient amenities in the form of internet-based resources for citizens to the troubled department.

“We certainly have had a lot of turnover in the department,” Slingerland said. “But we’re looking to establish a more modern department that functions better and bring in employees that are excited about that prospect and stabilize it.”

As it stands, the proposal, known as Phase I, consists of five tasks that the consultant firm will undertake. If approved, Arcadis will collect all data, job descriptions and department plans or business models for analysis; interview Building Department officials to assess the permit system and organizational struc-ture; identify organizational obstacles within the department that prevent or hinder the
department’s success; review the village’s existing
application system and possibly recommend a new system altogether; and craft a memorandum of the study’s results and hold a three-hour workshop discussing the findings.

According to the current proposal, written by Arcadis principal-in-charge Carolyn Lowe, the study will last approximately four weeks after being commissioned and cost $29,300.

Slingerland said the village is negotiating dividing the proposal into two separate phases: one focusing on analysis of the staff structure in the department and the other on a possible electronic web portal for permit and building applications.

Although the cost of the consultant wouldn’t cover the building of a new web portal, Slingerland said that group would recommend and guide the village toward implementing one.

“We’ve gone through a lot of changes in municipal operations over the past years and seen a lot of functions that have become more computerized and web-based,” he said. “As much as we’ve gone through modernizing with file retention, if we can modernize the application process, I think that would help a lot of functions within the department and volunteers on each [land-use] board.”

A lot of the Building Department’s problems revolve around the inability of the village to maintain any consistency with its building inspector position.

The most recent building inspector, Bill Gerety, was suspended indefinitely by the village without pay or public explanation in mid-June. Originally hired in April 2013, Gerety marked the fourth change in the position since July 2011, and was preceded by interim and assistant inspectors from both the Town of Mamaroneck and Harrison.

The department is currently being managed by Slingerland with help from Town of Mamaroneck Building Inspector Ronald Carpaneto. Fire Inspector William Ciraco and Brad Fallerman, both assistant building
inspectors since April 2014, and Village Code Enforcer Charlotte Mountain are “making sure all the work gets done,” according to Slingerland, al
ong with local architects reviewing proposals for the department.

Slingerland said the village is still searching for a new inspector, and that a hearing on Gerety’s suspension would be held no later than the end of September.

According to Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, an inspector could be hired by the end of this month. Rosenblum added that the possible study by Arcadis was “premature” and that the village should wait for a new inspector to be hired for the study to be commissioned.

“There’s no problem with analyzing any department to improve it overall, but I think it’s premature in the sense that the primary goal in the Building Department is to get a new building inspector, and, once he’s in, he should be a part of the overall program,” Rosenblum said.

The mayor said if the vacant spots in the department were filled, a study to analyze the structure of the Building
Department wouldn’t be necessary in the first place.

“Structurally the department is set up now and I don’t think there is anything wrong,” Rosenblum said. “All these studies are nothing but a tool. I’m not a big fan of study after study and pissing
money away.”

Democratic Trustee Leon Potok, who said the Building Department was “decimated” from the loss of staff over the years, disagreed. He said the proposal makes “terrific sense” and hiring an outside perspective to assess the department should have been done years ago.

“It’s a useful exercise and investment,” Potok said. “We-
’re going to be hiring new people and we want to be sure we restructure the department as necessary to make it that much more efficient and provide better service.”