Ocean City Building Task Force Proposed

OCEAN CITY – The City Council is looking to create a building inspector task force in order to check off a list of properties in town that are in need of repair and maintenance.

City Engineer Terry McGean last week presented the Mayor and City Council with good news that Ocean City’s building department rate given from the Insurance Services Office’s evaluation has improved since the last evaluation in 2005. McGean admitted to the only item the department did not score well on was the categories of staff training hours and public awareness. He explained it becomes difficult when the town has only one full-time and one part-time building inspector employed.

At that time, Councilman Doug Cymek said, “Before the end of the budget, I don’t think you are going to get away with just one and half building inspectors…I think you are very close to the point of either adding a second part-time inspector or looking for a full-time.”

During this week’s meeting Councilwoman Margaret Pillas extended the discussion of the possibility of hiring additional building inspectors after she had received an e-mail from a concerned resident about a neighboring property that is need of repair.

“What are we doing in the town about violations and how they’re not keeping their property up?” Pillas asked. “You can come to the city because we do have some housing regulations here, but we don’t have anybody to enforce it. We need to go back and make sure people are doing this.”

Pillas shared her concern of how problem properties are falling through the cracks because the city has not budgeted to hire additional building inspectors.

“I am just concerned this will get worse and worse instead of better,” she said.

Councilman Doug Cymek said the truth of the matter is the building department has become “very busy” with the one and half building inspectors currently employed compared to a few years ago when the city had three building inspectors employed.

“That’s why when I saw the budget for 2012 with one and half inspectors I knew we were getting ourselves in trouble,” Cymek said. “I think we need it [additional inspectors] now, we really do, there are a lot of issues out there housing wise and they don’t have the people and it’s just not getting addressed.”

Councilman Joe Hall said the city had the same issue several years ago and it was solved through a building inspector task force. He said the city funded about $25,000 to hire six or seven part-time building inspectors to examine properties in need of maintenance in town. The inspectors would send letters of concern to those properties and the town received a good percentage of compliance.

“They had about 80 percent compliance right off the get go,” Joe Hall said. “I understand why people are letting their properties go because there’s revenue issues and assessments went up and what they used to use for maintenance now goes to inflation and other areas, like their insurance, their taxes, their utilities and maintenance gets put on the back burner.”

Joe Hall asked the council to consider re-visiting the task force idea because at the time it was effective for a low cost.

“We need to follow up on that and see about putting that task force out there,” Mayor Rick Meehan agreed. “We did it before and it did work and it was successful.”