Schenectady, N.Y., Firefighters to Train on Code Enforcement Software

Schenectady officials hope the cloud-based software will prevent any code violations from slipping through the cracks.

by Andrew Beam, The Daily Gazette / April 9, 2018
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(TNS) — SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Firefighters will soon be able to file reports of potential code violations directly to the building department, thanks to a new municipal software program.

City officials said firefighters will be trained in how to use Municity, a cloud-based software program for municipalities. Once implemented, the software, called Municity, will allow firefighters to file code violations, using tablet computers, immediately. Those reports would automatically trigger an alert to code enforcement and building department officers.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens said he wants the software to be configured in a way that any violations reported would be the first thing a code enforcement officer sees when firing up a work computer. He also wants to make it so the alert doesn’t go away unless it is acted on by a code enforcement officer.

“No [code violation] that occurs should ever fall through the cracks,” Eidens said. “That’s our goal.”

A Schenectady County grand jury report on the deadly 2015 Jay Street fire that was released on Monday revealed firefighters had submitted a total of 14 reports citing issues directly related to how the fire spread inside the building.

One report from a fire lieutenant -- sent almost exactly one year before the Jay Street fire -- said the building "poses numerous hazards that can/will be fatal to its occupants and EMS.”

Four residents in the building were killed in that fire.

City employees are being trained on the latest version of the software, as the city continues its overhaul of the Building and Code Enforcement departments.

Mayor Gary McCarthy, Eidens and other city officials have cited Municity as a tool that will help them fix problems with those departments. The program was developed by Software Consulting Associates out of Red Hook, in Dutchess County.

Municity was among several aspects of a major overhaul of the Building and Codes departments announced by McCarthy. The remedies also include having Eidens oversee the Buildings Department and giving Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo new duties as chief of the department.

Municity will also allow Schenectady to keep a more comprehensive database of vacant properties, code violations, landlord registrations and building permits.

The city has already spent $21,000 to get the Municity program going, and will pay $41,000 annually to maintain it.

Currently, when firefighters come across a potential code violation, they directly call city Chief Building Inspector Chris Lunn, who then enters the information into Munis, a software program that was designed to track financial data.

John Coluccio, the city’s signal superintendent who is overseeing the roll out of Municity, said each alert entered into the new program will be labeled differently, according to severity.

“There is an ability to add language in the complaint to inform the Code Enforcement Department how delicate or unsafe a situation would be,” Coluccio said. “There’s ways to trigger email alerts for a particular type of classification of complaints."

©2018 The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.