Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has sent legislation to City Council to authorize $300,000 in ICA funding that will provide building inspectors with training in asbestos surveying and complete their deployment into neighborhood police zones.
Pending Council approval, the commitment represents a partnership with the city and ICA that focuses on rebuilding the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) to more effectively fight blight in city neighborhoods.
“Training our inspectors in asbestos surveying will lower the cost of demolition so that we can more aggressively tackle vacant structures,” Mayor Ravenstahl said. “Our inspectors are on the front-lines fighting blight in our neighborhoods and they deserve the best tools to keep our neighborhoods safe and clean.”
The mayor is committed to getting a handle on neighborhood blight and has challenged BBI to aggressively address the demolition back-log. He doubled the demolition budget from $2 to $4 million in 2008 and increased it by another 25 percent in 2009.
In response to that challenge, BBI overhauled the bidding process for demolitions, allowing for multiple homes in close proximity to be bid as one package. The 59-home contract in Hazelwood was the first demo project awarded under the new standards, followed by the 53-home contract in the Hilltop neighborhoods of Beltzhoover and Allentown. In total, 502 structures were razed in 2008. BBI is currently doing scattered site demolition, and is getting pre-demolition surveys in the North Side, Hazelwood, East Liberty, Garfield and the Hill District.
Code enforcement inspectors in the field are using mobile data terminals, which is drastically improving the amount of time in which violations are mailed to property owners. Two inspectors are now reporting to a neighborhood police zone, and the bureau will aggressively role out the decentralization in the coming months.
Soon to come will be the implementation of the following: an inspector recruit class, scheduled for April 13, to focus on improving the bureau's culture by equipping inspectors with technical skills; integrating code enforcement functions by decentralizing all code enforcement inspectors into the police zones and training fire personnel in code enforcement; and providing inspectors with vehicles to make them more visible and effective.