True to their word, county legislators have passed the four measures necessary to fund a new building department, which will assume responsibility for enforcing zoning codes in the village of Spring Valley. Funding was approved by a unanimous vote of 16-0 during a special meeting of the Legislature on Tuesday Feb 8, after a meeting the previous week saw three legislators absent themselves before the vote, preventing the body from approving funds for the new department.
The creation of the new office was spurned by an order from New York State, after years of monitoring the notoriously mismanaged Spring Valley building department failed to increase enforcement of building codes. The fire that destroyed the Evergreen Court Nursing Home in Spring Valley and claimed the lives of volunteer firefighter Jared Lloyd and resident Oliver Hueston on March 23, 2021, has been directly linked to the Spring Valley Building Department; Wayne Ballard and Raymond Canario, both former Spring Valley village building inspectors, were arrested in connection with the inferno and stand accused of falsifying records related to the facility.
On Tuesday, Feb 1, the legislature voted to establish the Office of Buildings and Codes, but was unable to approve funding as several legislators exited the meeting before the votes could be cast. The delay sparked fears that Rockland would be unable to meet the January 14th deadline established by the state to create the new office, though those concerns proved unfounded.
“We have provided everything necessary for the County Executive to operate the new Buildings and Codes Office and take care of conducting Spring Valley’s inspections as the state has mandated,” Legislature Minority Leader Lon Hofstein said. “Public safety is always paramount and County government is doing its part to protect the health and safety of residents, businesses and first responders.”
Spring Valley’s building department’s employees, record keeping software and equipment will be maintained by Spring Valley Building Department’s current employees under the supervision of the new Office of Buildings & Codes. Executive Day chose former Suffern mayor Edward Markunas as director of the new agency, a 20-year veteran of the police department, who created a similar building code initiative for the Village of Suffern.
The $1.5 million budget for the Office of Buildings and Codes, adopted on Feb 8, includes funding for staff, contractors, equipment, computer software and printed materials. The budget is intended to be revenue neutral and could be amended in the future to include possible New York State aid funding.
The County has identified a need for at least 12 Full and Part-time Building and Fire Inspectors and 5 support staff who will work under the supervision of the Director of the Office of Buildings and Codes to clear Spring Valley’s backlog of outstanding inspections. The Director of the Office of Buildings and Codes will report directly to the County Executive’s Chief of Staff and will be closely supported by the Office of Fire and Emergency Services and the Law Department.