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Massena town officials plan to hire code enforcement officer

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MASSENA — The Town Council will hire a part-time code enforcement officer to handle all code enforcement-related work within the town outside the village.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he’d already been contacted by one individual who was interested in the position, and town officials decided to advertise for the position for a week to give all interested individuals a fair opportunity to apply. The town is looking for a person to work 20 to 25 hours per week, including regular office hours, and handle all aspects of code enforcement, including issuing building permits and conducting fire inspections.

The town has contracted with the village for the past several years to utilize the services of former Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe and firefighters trained in code enforcement. Since Mr. Fregoe’s resignation Jan. 22, the village has relied on its career firefighters trained in code enforcement to handle Mr. Fregoe’s former duties.

In an email sent to town officials Jan. 20, Mayor James F. Hidy wrote that the village would continue to provide code enforcement service outside the village “for a short period of time” until the Town Council could implement an alternative for code enforcement.

The town also bowed out of the village code enforcement office, which is staffed by full-time secretary Avis M. Hazelton.

After some discussion, town board members elected to no longer share any costs of code enforcement with the village.

“My thought was that, if the village was divorcing themselves from us on a shared service, we should divorce ourselves from them,” town Councilman John F. Macaulay said. “I just think if we stayed connected, we’d be arguing back and forth on how much money we should be paying and all that stuff.”

Town officials said the person they hire would still be able to use the code enforcement office because the Massena Town Hall is owned by the town, but may not be able to use the services of Ms. Hazelton unless the town contracts with the village. While town officials have no plans to contract with the village, they stressed the decision was not a reflection on the performance of Ms. Hazelton or any other employees in the town and village offices.

Mr. Macaulay believes that, in an age of cellphones and email, a secretary may no longer be needed to conduct code enforcement business in the town.

“I think if we got this guy or gal a good cellphone, we won’t need anyone taking messages,” Mr. Macaulay said. “If we publish that cellphone number, (the code enforcement officer) can pick that phone up wherever he is.”

Deputy Clerk Pamela A. Catanzarite told the board that residents may receive information packets on both the building code and the application process for building permits through the town clerk’s office.

Town Councilman Charles A. Raiti said the ownership of zoning maps within the code enforcement office would not be an issue because those maps are the property of town Assessor Michael C. Ward.

Mr. Raiti also said the town may see some savings by parting from the village in code enforcement.

In 2012, the code enforcement office issued 60 permits outside the village, and 422 permits inside the village, according to Mr. Gray. In its 2013 budget, the town reduced its share of total funding for the code enforcement from 50 to 40 percent. In its 2012 budget the town allocated $52,092 for code enforcement, plus an additional $5,000 for fire inspections through the fire department. In 2013, the town allocated $35,512 for code enforcement, and $5,000 for fire inspections.

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