Patch asked DeGiorgio: As a Town Board member, have you proposed a plan to make the department run more properly? If so, what are the general specifics of the plan and why was it not adopted by the board? If you have not proposed a plan, why the wait? Would you say you are partially to blame for the situation?
Fixing the Building Department begins with listening.
Based on my discussions with Building Department personnel, my administration can – and will – make the Department work effectively.
I have listened carefully to homeowners, contractors, architects and real estate professionals. I also met with the Commissioner of the Building Department and his primary consultants, in what I felt were extremely productive sessions.
The solution requires hard work – attention to detail, close management, supervision and better communication. It takes a lot more than an easy “7-Step Solution” that my opponent has advocated – without even meeting with a member of the Building Department.
Nearly everyone – including the Commissioners -- agrees that it takes too long for the Building Department to review plans and issue permits.
When I shared all of these frustrations with those in charge of the Building Department they indicated that they have not been given adequate resources or support. I believe they are earnest, and I took them at their word.
Together, we came up with a solid plan that, by eliminating no-show, no-work, duplicative positions in other Town Departments, will not cost taxpayers a cent.
I agreed to make the Building Department my highest priority and to allocate the resources necessary to achieve that goal. They agreed to re-evaluate some of their policies and practices based on the criticisms received from those who most frequently use the Building Department.
The following are some examples of new procedures we would implement:
- Offer pre-screening meetings with plan examiners, where people will receive input and guidance prior to submitting applications.
- Assign the plan examiner who conducted the pre-screen meeting to see the project through to its completion.
- Review applications on the same day they’re submitted, to ensure that the applications are complete. (This policy is already being implemented, which should begin reducing wait times.)
- Scan all documents to prevent loss and to make them readily available.
- Create an independent team to oversee the quality and integrity of the Building Department procedures.
- Create a “fast track” system to approve variances for improvements such as fences, sheds, HVAC units and decorative retaining walls. Homeowners would be able to complete the paperwork themselves and submit it to the new Board to approve these types of “simple” variances on an expedited basis.
- Review existing zoning codes and, where appropriate, clarify and amend the code based on feedback from design professionals who are frequent users of the Building Department; Cut waste and patronage jobs in the Town overall and allocate the savings to the Building Department to increase workflow and productivity.
As the Town Supervisor, I will work to make all of our Town departments more effective, but I am committed to making the Building Department serve the public the way it should.
Editor's note: The original article posted Sept. 27, 2013, inaccurately gave Councilwoman DeGiorgio's complete response to the question. The second page of her response to Patch was unintentionally omitted from the bullet point beginning with "Create a "Fast Track" system to approve variances." The article was corrected Sept. 30 to reflect DeGiorgio's complete response. Patch regrets the error and welcomes comments and suggestions, or complaints that warrant correction.