The state agency which oversees code and inspection functions in Pennsylvania has issued a “formal warning” to the Pottstown Codes office for a number of violations, including allowing inspections to be conducted by personnel not certified to perform those inspections.
In a letter issued Oct. 2, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry informed the codes office manager, Maria E. Bleile, of the results of its complaint investigation.
The letter outlines eight complaints regarding inspections at both commercial and residential properties, ranging from Pottstown Memorial Hospital, to the Salvation Army to four residential properties.
In 2008, inspector Rick Stuber reviewed plans for the Hyperbaris Suite
at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center without certification,
according to t
he Oct. 2 letter from Labor and Industry.
Issues ranged from inspectors conducting “plan reviews” and inspections without the proper certification; to no records of reviews or certain inspections being conducted at all; to missing dates in inspection reports.
In one problem, from Aug. 17, 2011, permits were issued for alterations for 413 Walnut St. “which did not involve structural changes or changes to the means of egress,” according to the letter, which then noted: “During the course of our investigation, we were unable to obtain a local ordinance requiring permits for this type of work.”
The incidences cited by Field Operations Manager Ron F. Englar, dated as far back as 2008.
“This includes ensuring all individuals working under your supervision hold the proper certifications required to perform inspections or plan review for each discipline. Please consider this letter to be a formal warning that will be placed in your certification file,” Englar wrote.
A copy of the letter was forwarded to Pottstown Borough Council President Stephen Toroney.
Borough Manager Mark Flanders said he had already decided to have the borough’s engineering firm, Remington, Vernick and Beach, review operations in the codes department when he became aware of the letter.
|Borouh Manager Mark Flanders|
On Oct. 9, borough council voted to spend as much as $33,500 not in the 2012 budget to have the engineering firm conduct a top to bottom review of the codes offices, its operations and practices, and to make recommendations for improvement.
The firm will “bench mark the department and make recommendations for best management practices” that would be issued in a written report, Flanders told council in the Oct. 3 meeting.
That review is ongoing, and came in the wake of a Sept. 23 report in The Mercury revealing that the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office had opened a Grand Jury investigation into the codes office.
No results from that investigation have ever been reported out to the public.
Flanders told The Mercury on Dec. 18 that it is his understanding that many of the inspectors cited in the letter have or are close to obtaining many of the certifications that the letter indicated are lacking among the codes staff.
He also said he anticipates that many of the issues raised in the letter will be addressed in the review and recommendations Remington, Vernick and Beach will deliver.
In the meantime, Flanders said the advantage of having the firm on board is that many of their personnel carry those certifications, so if an inspection is needed prior to the borough code officers finishing their certification work, those at Remington, Vernick and Beach “are just a phone call away.”
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