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SARATOGA SPRINGS: City inspection guidelines need kinks worked out

Inventory of the city's multi-family dwellings continues, but a state mandate ordering another level of inspections has been tabled until the kinks are worked out, said Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim.

New state fire safety and property maintenance laws, which took effect on Jan. 1, will force the city to adopt regulations that require all buildings with three or more apartments or dwellings to be inspected every three years, he said. That amounts to an additional 2,000 apartments or multi-family units within the city. Currently, the fire inspectors handle all restaurant, hotel and motel inspections as well as buildings that allow public assembly.

This is another unfunded state mandate, said Kim at the Tuesday, Jan. 16, meeting of the Saratoga Springs City Council. "I don't mean to imply that this is an unnecessary practice."

It could take at least a year just to compile an inventory of all buildings in the city with three or more residential units, Kim estimated.

At a public hearing preceding the Jan. 16 meeting, some developers and landlords decried the state mandate.

Thomas Roohan, a local developer who owns several apartment buildings around the city, said that requiring all of these apartments to be inspected likely would lead to a rent increase.

The city may begin charging fees for the soon-to-be mandatory inspections, but the rate has not been set.

"I don't think there is an overwhelming need in our community," Roohan said. "Bigger government isn't necessarily better."

Roohan said every year, lawmakers in Albany hand down some legislation that it costs him money to comply with. For example, he said, equipment that has been mandated by the state, designed to make emergency services to residents of multi-family buildings more fluid, is not used by emergency personnel.

"A few years ago they mandated that we put in Knox-boxes (a locked container with a key for emergency personnel) for every unit"They break down the doors anyway," said Roohan.

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