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Long IslandTowns

Port Washington North moves to formalize building department

Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner stands in

Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner stands in the village's new building department on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Port Washington North is reconstructing its building department to create a superintendent's post, Mayor Bob Weitzner said.

The village has had an informal department for years, but officials are expected to pass a law formalizing the unit Tuesday night. The department will have a new post of superintendent of buildings instead of the two building inspectors it now has.

Village officials plan to appoint Robert Barbach, one of the building inspectors, as superintendent to oversee a building inspector.

The move creates a hierarchy -- important for when residents have complaints, want to challenge a decision or want a supervisor's opinion, Weitzner said.

Currently if a resident has "a problem with the building inspector, there is no one you can go to," the mayor said.

The two part-time hourly employees will not receive additional compensation with the change.

"It legitimizes the department a little bit more," Weitzner said. "You have to formally create the building department."

The village has 3,100 residents and in the past 12 months has received 270 building permit applications.

Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute in Islandia, said local building departments have become increasingly important to Long Islanders after the damage from superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the record floods on the South Shore last month.

"A building department is the main interaction with people and their local governments if they need a permit or need repairs," Pally said.

Designating a superintendent is essential to customer service, Pally said. "In any entity if you don't get satisfaction, you need to know who is the supervisor, the person you complain to."

The Port Washington North department also will have more space now that the village has moved into new offices at 3 Pleasant Ave. The department spent nearly a decade working out of a strip mall next to a pet shop and a nail salon, where odors and animal noises wafted into the business of daily government.

Arthur Buhr Jr. and Arthur Buhr III, principals of Total Dollar Insurance, said the village hall and its streams of visitors have been a welcome addition to the Pleasant Avenue commercial complex.

"It makes us a part of the community," Buhr Jr. said. "I didn't realize that many people come in and pay their taxes in person."

The new building department office has desks large enough for people to spread out plans. Before, "it wasn't a department -- it was a desk," Weitzner said.

Construction is increasing on Long Island's North Shore, Pally said. "What you're seeing is repairs, renovations, and I think as the economy is getting better, more and more entities are beginning to do capital improvements," he said.

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