OSWEGO – At this week’s Administrative Services Committee meeting, Mayor Billy Barlow officially requested authorization to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the city of Oswego and county of Oswego. The agreement will create a partnership between the city of Oswego Department of Code Enforcement and Oswego County Department of Social Services.
The MOU will ensure that any applicant for housing through Oswego County DSS is placed in a property in the city of Oswego that is complaint with all local laws and regulations, including the possession of a valid city of Oswego rental permit, the mayor explained Monday.
It dictates that DSS employees will have access to the city of Oswego’s MUNICITY software and will use the software to verify the properties under consideration are code compliant and have a valid rental permit.
Last summer, the mayor went on a code enforcement call with the Code Enforcement Department.
It was an eye-opener.
“When we arrived at that particular property we found that an individual was placed in that property by DSS. That property at that time had no running water, no bathroom – the ‘toilet’ was a bucket out in the back yard,” the mayor said.
The windows weren’t sealed, there was one electrical outlet in the back of the house with an extension cord running through surge protectors through the rest of the house, no heat or air conditioning, he added.
Barlow said he spoke with the resident to see how this could have happened.
“When I learned he was actually placed there, I felt that something needed to be done. We contacted DSS and we worked together, actually met out in Mexico at DSS, got a tour of the facility and learned what services they offer,” he said.
After they learned how the system works, he had another meeting on site with the city’s code enforcement personnel and DSS staff.
“We talked about really how we could make the system better,” he said.
There was nothing in place that told DSS whether a property was code compliant or not.
They (DSS) shared the city’s vision of not wanting to place people in unsafe housing, he added.
“The system that we came up with is really a simple system,” the mayor explained. “This partnership ensures DSS clients are placed in safe, quality housing and increases the accountability of landlords accepting payments of taxpayer money. All we need to do is formalize it.”
What the agreement essentially says is that the city of Oswego will allow DSS employees to access the city’s MUNICITY software to verify, in real time, that rental properties under consideration for taxpayer-funded rental assistance are code-compliant and have a valid rental permit, Barlow explained.
DSS will check to see if the property has a valid city of Oswego rental permit and is code compliant and is current on taxes.
“I really appreciate that the county is helping us,” the mayor said, acknowledging the assistance he received from Oswego County Legislature Chairman Shane Broadwell and Department of Social Services Commissioner Stacy Alvord. “I would recommend and appreciate (the council’s) support on this.”
Councilor Ron Tesoriero said he was fully in support of the agreement.
“This is something that’s long overdue. Nobody should have to go through what that person did,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of the council leading the charge for safe housing.”
The full council will consider the matter at next week’s meeting.
The County Legislature will take up the proposal at its July 12 meeting.