The creation of a new Rockland County Office of Building Code Enforcement and Fire Safety moved forward at a joint meeting of the county’s Multi-Service, Planning and Public Works, and Budget and Finance Committees Tuesday night. Up next, a date for a public hearing will be set at a meeting of the whole Legislature.
The new office comes in response to a state mandate that Rockland County be prepared to take over the enforcement of building, safety and fire codes in the Village of Spring Valley by February 15, 2022. The drastic action was taken by the state after years of mismanagement of code at the village level and following a deadly fire this March at Evergreen Nursing Home. Six persons were arrested following the fire, including two Spring Valley inspectors. Two people died, volunteer firefighter Jared Lloyd and resident Oliver Hueston.
The state/county takeover is not a certainty yet, as the state has also given the village until February 15 to display competence.
In the meantime, the Village of Spring Valley has hired code enforcement expert Adam McCarey of MPM LLC in Middletown, NY to “micro-manage” its code enforcement departments and bring the village up to par. McCarey told the Rockland County Times he is working 30 hours per week on the project.
McCarey spoke at the Legislature Tuesday evening and gave a long presentation demonstrating how he intended to help the village improve its system. McCarey’s bottom line message to the Legislature was that under his supervision, the village may improve its enforcement by February 15 and retain its autonomy. In that case, the county would not have to take on the new responsibility.
Several legislators expressed doubt that McCarey could get that much done in a short period of time, citing a culture of corruption in Spring Valley and the irony of his relying on existing village personnel, some of whom are under indictment.
Legislator Laurie Santulli said, “I don’t see how you can fix that in 90 days. It’s decades of corruption.”
Chairman of the Legislature Alden Wolfe said, “We may not be the right audience for this presentation. We are not in control, the state is.”
County Executive Ed Day told the Rockland County Times that the county is treating the February deadline as a hard deadline and the county will be ready to perform inspections by that time. He also said that the state is in control of the process, and that Rockland has been “deputized” by the state to have the authority to take control of the village’s code enforcement.
Spring Valley Mayor Alan Simon has said that he believes a state takeover of the village’s code enforcement is illegal and a violation of Home Rule.” County Executive Day said that any possible litigation will be between the village and the state and not include the county.
In other news, the Budget and Finance Committee moved forward a spending item of $3.7 million for the “design, purchase and installation of an automated license plate reader system (ALPR), and associated equipment and services for the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office.”
County Executive Day told the Rockland County Times that the reader system will monitor the perimeter of the county and record what vehicles come in and out. The county system will not monitor traffic inside the county, only on the perimeter, he said. Among the five towns of Rockland, only the Town of Clarkstown has its own ALPR system in operation.
Interest in the system was sparked following the December 28, 2019 Hanukkah stabbing attack in Monsey. The perpetrator was tracked down by ALPR technology over the George Washington Bridge. Had such technology been in place in Rockland County, police believe the perpetrator would have been caught far sooner.