GLENS FALLS — City officials are expressing interest in participating in a pilot project, which would allow sharing of building and code enforcement information among different municipalities through a software program.
Councilwoman Diana Palmer told the Building and Codes Committee on Tuesday that the program is run through the University at Albany’s Center for Technology in Government. The municipalities use a software program called Municity 5, a shared database that flags problem properties, developers and landlords.
“If something comes up on that property owner or that LLC in Binghamton, then I know this is the history,” she said.
The communities participating now are Schenectady, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Troy and soon Binghamton, Palmer said.
“They're looking for a couple smaller communities to bring on board,” she said.
The center is holding a workshop next week to consider inviting more communities to join the program.
The program basically creates a “mobile office” for the code enforcement officer, according to Palmer. For example, she said, the code officer could take a photo of a violation at a property and upload it into the database.
Palmer said the program has a cost, but grant money could offset that charge.
Code Enforcement Officer John Ward said no computer program will eliminate blight.
Councilwoman-At-Large Jane Reid said it is worth expressing interest to the center.
One potential issue is the city bought new software for the Building and Codes Office a few years ago, and there is a question whether that information could be transferred into the new system.
“To migrate that data and records to another software system can be tedious and problematic,” said Fire Chief James Schrammel.
The software program provides modules for different types of inspections, such as the rental property registration the city is in the early stages of discussing.
Schrammel provided the committee with multiple handouts, detailing all the issues that would have to be considered, including coordinating with multiple city departments, drafting a local ordinance, phasing in the program or doing it all at once, setting the fees and determining how frequently the permits would have to be renewed.
The city would have to define "rental units" and define "violations," according to Schrammel.
“It could be an illegal conversion of a two-family (dwelling) into a four-family in an area that doesn't meet zoning standard,” he said. “Those things are going to get caught in this.”
The city also wants to have a local contact person for landlords who live out of the area. How close that contact has to live to Glens Falls is another question that will need to be answered.
The council also has to decide the penalties for failing to register, which could include revocation of the permit, fines, jail time and community service.
“If this thing has no teeth, you can't make them compliant,” he said.
Schrammel said the city could adopt a system that would require less frequent inspections for landlords whose properties have fewer violations.
“A lot times a reward goes a lot further than a fine,” he said.
The program would also require more staff, Schrammel added.
He said landlords may oppose the change on legal or financial grounds.
City Clerk Robert Curtis said some landlords may oppose the program on Fourth Amendment grounds, citing their right against unreasonable search and seizures of their property.
“You're not going to get 100 percent compliance from landlords. You’re going to get some people who are resistant,” he said.