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September 21, 2018

Council Eyes Amendment Targeting Emergency Work


OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Administrative Services Committee recommended an amendment to the section of the city code regarding the issuance or renewal of building permits.

Seventh Ward Councilor Ron Kaplewicz weighs in on the proposed amendment Monday night.

Seventh Ward Councilor Ron Kaplewicz weighs in on the proposed amendment Monday night.

“An issue has arisen regarding a property that is delinquent in taxes … the work that needs to be done is structural work that is required; it’s a danger, so we’re trying to work out an agreement,” City Attorney Gay Williams explained.

Under the proposed amendment, a building permit would be allowed to perform specific work that is needed to make the structure safe.

In the event of an emergency or in a dangerous situation, the Department of Code Enforcement may issue (or renew) a building permit if the work to be performed is necessary to protect the public health and safety, according to the proposal.

Once the work is completed, the property own would again be held to the original local law – prohibiting any permits be granted until all back taxes and fees have been paid.

Councilor Ron Kaplewicz felt it might reinforce bad behavior if the permits are issued for work “because of willful negligence on the part of the owner.”

“We’re kind of reinforcing bad behavior. I understand that we’re trying to protect public safety. But if someone has willfully neglected their building and now it’s an emergency to repair but they’ve also willfully neglected their taxes. And, I’m not quite sure how you sort all that out,” he said.

“If there isn’t very well-defined criteria for making that determination, the code enforcement people are not going to be able to make that determination that it was willful on the part of the owner by letting water get into their building or whatever,” Williams said.

Kaplewicz said he didn’t want to set up a way for someone to circumvent what he feels is a good law.

Williams suggested the council could add language to the amendment citing that it is only for residents, not a commercial business; only for elderly people; people who’ve lost their jobs or whatever.

If not, “Everybody is going to come in with some kind of an excuse” to get the work done, she said.

It’s setting things up for the system to be abused, Kaplewicz cautioned, adding that there should be a requirement written in for the council to be informed of the situation.

The intent of the law was to have your taxes paid before any services would be granted, Councilor Fran Enwright said.

The council should be involved in making the decision, he said.

Williams will add that the council and mayor must be given notification of the proposed work within 30 days after any permit has been issued.

If they can’t get a permit, a “junk house’ could sit in a neighborhood for years, Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie said. (Currently, the fire department handles code enforcement).

The deal would be only for getting the work completed, Williams pointed out.

It would have no bearing on getting the delinquent taxes paid, she added.

The committee sent the resolution to the full council for consideration next week.

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