Morristown’s town council took steps during its meeting last week to establish a department of code enforcement that will consolidate the building and uniform construction code, health, property maintenance and inspections, rent leveling and zoning divisions.
The organizational change, which was presented by Administrator Michael Rogers, would also dissolve the department of human services, shuffle recreation into the department of public works and create a senior services office in Rogers’ administration department.
Before the ordinance was passed on introduction by a vote of 4-2, Rogers explained that consultants from Jersey Professional Management, which compiled a report sanctioned by the council in 2011, suggested centralizing the code enforcement areas.
He explained the reasoning for the consultants was to explore the deficiencies in various divisions of the government and instances of breakdown in communication.
“We thought it was time to review these code enforcement areas and ultimately re-evaluate the organizational structure and operational procedures and look at personnel and how they are utilized,” Rogers said.
He explained that, under the proposed structure, neither the names nor the functions of the five code enforcement divisions will change—only the department construct.
“If any resident or business owner comes into this town, they look for building and construction, they look for health, they look for property maintenance,” Rogers said. “That will stay the same. Even though it will be a new department, I don’t think it will really matter.”
He also said there will be no impact on personnel, finances or workforce.
One major change will be the addition of a code enforcement department director, a facet that concerned Councilwomen Allison Deeb and Raline Smith-Reid, who each voted against the move.
“I have concerns about creating a position at taxpayer expense to the tune of $75,000 to $100,000 a year to oversee processes that might be flawed and dysfunctional to begin with,” Deeb said.
Deeb said she would have also liked to see more empirical data from the consultants’ report to support the recommendation.
Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman said she believes the suggested department structure will help to encourage current and potential residents and business owners who now “go through a maze in all different departments and divisions” to invest in Morristown.
Council President Michelle Dupree Harris, who started working in Morristown at age 15, said a lot of the dysfunction and miscommunication that had existed then is still around now.
“This will put us in the right phase for where we need to go,” Dupree Harris said.