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Town presses village on inspections

Williamsville has been without a building inspector for six months, and Amherst officials said they are tired of covering for the village without the proper staff to handle the task.

The Town Board gave notice this week that, without a more permanent agreement, the town is prepared to stop handling the village's building, plumbing, electrical and fire inspections in 30 days.

Despite the town's work on the village's behalf, Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum said the village has failed to meet state requirements on routine fire safety and property maintenance inspections.

"I know they haven't done their fire safety inspections, which are mandated," he said. "They haven't done them for a number of years."

The town is unwilling to cut such corners by doing village work "on the cheap," Ketchum said, even though the village reimburses the town for all the work done for the village.

"We are going to enforce the codes and regulations the way they're written," he said.

Merging some Building Department functions is under discussion as both municipalities are undertaking consolidation efforts. Williamsville also faces a vote in August on dissolving village government.

An intermunicipal agreement dating to 2006 enables the town's Building Department to handle some permit work for the village. Until February, that agreement had been invoked in a mere handful of cases.

But since then, the village has asked the town to handle about 55 inspections and permits, Ketchum said, for everything from in-ground pools to solar panels.

That can't continue, Ketchum and Supervisor Barry Weinstein said. The village has to agree to a long-term arrangement, which would require the town to hire additional code enforcement officers, or begin handling the work itself once again.

Village Administrator Lynda Juul did not return calls seeking comment.

Village Trustee Jeffrey Kingsley, however, said he respects the town's position. He sent Weinstein a letter last week requesting formal negotiations on a town takeover of certain building permit and zoning code responsibilities.

"There are numerous gray areas between complete integration and complete separation," Kingsley said. "For the first time, we're trying to find out if that's doable."

With this year's changes in town leadership, the Village Board is more hopeful about reaching a long-term service arrangement, Kingsley said. But if that's not possible, the village is prepared to consider hiring a new, full-time code enforcement officer.

Many trustees recognize that a part-time inspector is inadequate because of the workload and the high turnover in the job, he added.

"Over the past three years, we've gone through three part-time enforcement officers," said Kingsley, whom the Village Board has authorized to head negotiations with the town.

Both sides, however, acknowledge disagreement over the additional number of full-time inspectors needed to handle village work and the costs associated with those positions.

"I'm not against the merger," Ketchum said. "I just want it to be staffed appropriately."

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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