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CODE WORD: ENFORCEMENT

Red Bankers have heard a lot about code enforcement in recent months. There appears to be a consensus that a lack of vigor in holding absentee landlords accountable for housing violations is at the root of rental-house overcrowding, particularly but not exclusively on the West Side.

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This, in turn, has contributed to challenges ranging from noise and litter to a burgeoning school population that does not speak English as a first language, imposing additional education costs on taxpayers, say critics.

Pat Menna ran for mayor promising to beef up code enforcement. Now that he’s taken office, what can residents expect in terms of action?

Some answers might be had tomorrow night at the River Street Commons when the Westside Community Group hosts a code enforcement forum beginning at 7p. The public is invited.

Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels and officials involved in code enforcement are scheduled to speak and answer questions from residents.

Among the approaches under discussion, Menna tells redbankgreen, is a multipronged approach involving the code enforcement, public works, police and fire departments to collaborate and enforce rules. A 24-hour hotline that would enable residents to report suspected violations at any time is also on the table.

“I think what we have to do is to look at what we’re doing now and see how we can do it better,” says Menna. “Obviously, it’s a manpower issue, but it’s also a management-type issue, and maybe we can reallocate some resources.”

On a related note, the borough last week hired a new, part-time code enforcement officer in the Public Works department. But rather than sniffing out building-code issues, the inspector will be on the hunt for soggy sofas left in front yards, trash cans put out on the curb too soon, twigs improperly mixed in with leaves, open boxes of packing peanuts put out on windy days and other types of quality-of-life violations.

The job went to Jimmy Walker, a retired Public Works department foreman, who was brought on at a salary not to exceed $12,000, with no benefits. The addition of Walker, borough officials say, will take some of the workload off Frank Woods, who was handling both housing and trash monitoring but will now be able to concentrate on the housing side.

Meantime, says Menna, “We’re still looking into getting qualified and certified people in for housing and code enforcement.”

The meeting will be held in the Community Room of River Street Commons at 49 Catherine Street. For more information, please contact Joyce Williams at 732-741-3715 or Amy Goldsmith at 732-747-0306.

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