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State to require code enforcement standards

Legislation will be sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul this summer requiring minimum standards for code enforcement personnel.

A.276/S.532 both passed the state Legislature before the end of the state legislative session. The Assembly approved the bill 105-39 with Assemblymen Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting against. Senate passage was by a 43-18 vote with Sen. George Borrello voting against.

The legislation creates a timeline for completion of the mandatory training for code enforcement personnel and increases the annual continuing education required to maintain a certification. It also requires building safety inspectors and code enforcement officials to complete a minimum amount of basic training courses prior to performing certain enforcement activities. The bill prohibits continued employment as code enforcement personnel if a person’s certification has been suspended or revoked unless the person has received an extension to become active by the state Secretary of State’s office.

Goodell said the legislation would hurt small towns and villages that already struggle to find qualified code enforcement officers. Often, the positions are filled through informally, with many local towns and villages sharing code enforcement officers because there are so few qualified inspectors.Goodell said A.276/S.532 could make that shortage worse.

“They cannot begin to work for the town until they complete the state mandated training,” Goodell said. “For a small town that can be an extensive delay. So we need to be sensitive to small towns that don’t look in the yellow pages for certified code enforcement officers. We look for people who are the best qualified in the town that have that practical, common sense experience. You get them on board as soon as you can and arrange for the certification as soon as you can and cover all your bases, but you really need to get them in. The last thing any of us want to create is a scenario where town governments or village governments don’t have any code enforcement officer pending training when you have a qualified person ready to step in.”

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-Rockland, sponsored the legislation. It is intentionally vague as to what code enforcement officers should know, how much training should be required and how much training code officers should take each year. Those decisions are being left to the state Secretary of State. Zebrowski did say in his legislative justification that, in his view, too many code officers are making decisions with too little education under the current law.

“Currently, code enforcement personnel are afforded 18 months to complete the basic training from the time of appointment and may begin enforcement activities immediately without taking a single course,” Zebrowski wrote. “This bill will create a more reasonable timeline for completing basic training; six for building safety inspectors and 12 months for code enforcement officers. In addition, this bill provides for a minimum amount of basic training courses needed before an individual may commence enforcement activities. An individual should have a basic understanding of the uniform code prior to taking official actions.”

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