Mayor addresses 'shut down' of building department

At the Tuesday, Aug. 3, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, Mayor Scott Johnson addressed some recent action by the city's Civil Service Commission that has essentially shut down the building department and rendered it unable to issue building permits, a setback that some residents voiced concern and inconvenient displeasure about during the public comment portion of the meeting.

I feel compelled, as an elected official, to speak publicly as to what is going on, said Johnson.

Johnson described how on July 19, the city's Civil Service Commission changed the job descriptions of two assistant building inspectors by deleting their authority to issue building permits. In doing so, it shut down the whole department until further action can be taken in a court of law or an appeal to a higher authority, like the state Civil Service Commission. Johnson said the commission had no authority to do what it did.

"I am the appointing authority in this regard. It's important, in terms of civil service law, I am the one with appointing authority and as such I have certain rights that others do not have, when it comes to personnel and effectuate change," said Johnson. "The commission, on their own and without any request from my department or me personally, took actions."

Commission officials said they have been advised not to comment on the matter.

Another step that was taken on July 19, said Johnson, directly impacts the building department's ability to serve the community. That was the elimination of the position of zoning enforcement officer and building inspector, which would have been a senior job. Johnson had requested that the position be established and it had been approved in June, with job advertisement, resume collection and discussion of interviews completed.

"My goal in having a new position was part of the restructuring effort of the building department for better efficiency and service," said Johnson. "[The commission] eliminated yet another position at a time when we're already short two building inspectors to begin with. This is quite a dilemma."

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