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City may farm out building inspection

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said last week the impending retirement of the city's two building inspectors gives the city an opportunity to privatize the inspection function.

But Tucker said a decision has to be made soon. Senior Building Inspector Harry J. Apolito has decided he's retiring as of Aug. 1. Chief Building Inspector James P. McCann also is expected to be gone by the end of the year, although he hasn't set a date.

"When Harry leaves, we're in a jam," Tucker said.

He said he has received from the New York Conference of Mayors the names of two Syracuse-area companies that perform building inspection work.

"Maybe they can give us the names of some people around here," Tucker said. "If we're going to hire somebody, we have to do it soon."

Alderwoman Phyllis J. Green, R-2nd Ward, has been involved in trying to spur action on housing blight and building code violations. Asked about Tucker's privatization idea, she said, "I'm totally against it."

Green said that there are city functions that can be outsourced but that building inspection shouldn't be one of them.

"It's one of the most important jobs in the city, and I think we should have someone there every day that we can count on, that we can ask if we're having problems with a certain house," Green said. "I've been unhappy with building inspection because I don't think we have enough people in that department. They expect two people to do it, and that is utterly impossible."

Green said she would be in favor of replacing McCann and Apolito and adding a third person. The city already has an inspector trainee on the payroll.

Tucker said, "I'm of the hope a private company will give us more services there than we can get unless we hire a bunch of guys."

But Tucker said the deal has to make financial sense, including a set stipend from any company chosen. "I don't want to get into a situation where we're paying by the hour," the mayor said.


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