The state has ordered Ramapo to strengthen enforcement of fire prevention and building codes, demanding the town provide documentation and upgrade its computer system to document inspections and the results.
The order from the state Division of Building Standards and Codes followed a series of re-inspections of buildings and schools across town.
The order signed by Executive Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Giardina follows recent allegations by the state Department of Education that Ramapo Fire Inspector Adam Peltz ignored serious violations at four private schools and allegedly filed false reports.
Peltz has been taken off inspections until an internal investigation into his work is completed, town officials said.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, County Executive Ed Day and the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force have led the call for the state to crack down and potentially take over the inspection duties in Ramapo and Spring Valley.
The same state agency in February 2015 issued blistering letters citing inadequate building inspections and enforcement of zoning and fire-safety regulations in Ramapo and Spring Valley. The Division of Building Standards and Codes preliminarily found the municipalities allow potentially dangerous conditions to fester in housing and single-family-home conversions into schools and, in some cases, houses of worship
Critics claim many temporary certificates of occupancy never cease as private schools continue to operate, or get municipal approvals for classroom trailers, and rarely face court or government penalties.
Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein said Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia “will comply in all respects with the Department of State” and provide the requested documentation. He said Mallia and other officials will meet with the religious schools Wednesday “to make sure they are fully cooperating with us to ensure compliance with state codes.”
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and Mallia did not return calls and emails seeking comment.
“They have to take corrective action or the state could take over the building department,” Zebrowski said. “We’ve seen the degradation of land use in the town and the village. How can inspections get done and these egregious conditions remain? The state is recognizing the dangerous conditions in the town.”
The state agency’s order, released Monday, states Ramapo fails to ensure work is done with proper building permits and must refrain from allowing work to be done without a building permit. The town also must determine the work fits within state codes and perform construction inspections at various stages of development.
The state’s report found that Ramapo failed to meet minimum standards for record keeping documents concerning development and inspections. The town could not produce copies of some certificates of occupancy showing the original certificate and maintains no other records documenting the date of the certification, the agency order states.
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.