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Rockland County Launches Office of Buildings and Codes
NEW CITY—On Feb. 14, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and newly appointed Director Ed Markunas provided an update on the launch of the new County Office of Buildings and Codes, which began operations that day. The new county department assumed full control over the functions of the Village of Spring Valley Building Department per a directive nearly three months ago from New York State.
The Office of Buildings and Codes has instituted a 30-day moratorium which will end on March 15, 2022, on any new permit applications while the new department conducts a comprehensive review of all outstanding violations while resolving issues that pose an imminent threat to life, health, and safety. Markunas, a former NYPD Officer and Suffern Mayor, said there is a backlog of approximately 800 inspections to be undertaken in short order in the village.
“I am proud to stand before you today to celebrate achieving the near-impossible,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. “In only three months, Rockland has launched a brand-new county Office of Buildings and Codes.” The County of Rockland was ordered by the New York State Department of State on Nov. 16, 2021, to take over the functions of the Spring Valley Building Department.
During his time as Suffern Mayor, Markunas oversaw the village’s Building Department and developed and implemented the Village of Suffern Code Initiative (modeled after the incredibly successful Rockland Code Initiative) which combatted code, housing, and fire safety issues.
“Based on the information provided by Spring Valley there are over 800 outstanding inspections that we must tackle as quickly as possible which will be prioritized based on any safety concerns,” said Office of Buildings and Codes Director Markunas. “To accomplish this, we have 20 certified code inspectors and several support staff who will tackle the outstanding inspections. As this process plays out, we are prepared to increase staffing and inspectors if the workload demands it.”
The County of Rockland created an Intermunicipal Agreement with Spring Valley which lays the groundwork for a smooth transition of this department under county control and prepares for the day that New York State decides to return it to Spring Valley. The agreement outlines the expectations and requirements of the working relationship between the County of Rockland and Village of Spring Valley including accessing their recordkeeping program and allowing their existing building and fire inspectors to report to and work for the county. The inclusion of fully vetted, existing village inspectors is necessary because they know local conditions best. With proper oversight, training, and direction these inspectors will help speed up this process significantly, county officials stated.
“Any village employee who does not comport entirely with the rules and regulations of New York State will be removed from participating in our effort,” said County Executive Day. “I promise the people of Rockland that my top goal in fulfilling this order from New York State is to protect the health and safety of village residents, visitors and first responders.”
The new Office will operate under a strict zero-tolerance policy. Additionally, when it comes to enforcement of the Uniform Building and Fire Codes of New York State, inspectors will not hesitate to issue fines to those in violation. Director Markunas, did note however, “Fines are not the goal, they are just a tool that we will utilize whenever necessary.”
The Office requests all interested parties begin submitting complaints by calling 845-364-3700 or e-mailing to: BuildingsAndCodes@co.rockland.ny.us.
Preparing for the takeover required a coordinated effort with the Office of Fire and Emergency Services, Facilities Department, Purchasing Department, Information and Technology Services, Law Department, Personnel Department, Finance Department, Office of Consumer Protection, and the Office of the County Executive taking part.
Prior to the takeover, the county held weekly meetings with New York State and Spring Valley Village officials and attorneys; drafted five new resolutions in 90 days, renovated an old, unused cafeteria, into office space in under 20 days and launched the web page for the new Office of Buildings and Codes.
The Office of Buildings and Codes main office is located on the second floor of Building A in the Robert Yeager Health Complex in Pomona. Rockland County will also have a small satellite office at Spring Valley Village Hall to accommodate the needs of village residents. The satellite office will be staffed by a clerk and certified code inspector.