04/21/15 7:00pm
04/21/2015 7:00 PM
Chip Bancroft, vice president of the Suffolk County Fire Chiefs Council

Chip Bancroft, vice president of the Suffolk County Fire Chiefs Council

The Vice President of the Suffolk County Fire Chiefs Council said his organization will file oversight complaints against Riverhead Town with the state Codes Division if the town doesn’t increase the number of fire marshals it has.

Chip Bancroft, the vice president of the county group, addressed the Town Board on the issue Tuesday night, saying that based on town fire marshal reports he received through a Freedom of Information Law request, the town’s fire marshals completed only 238 building inspections in 2014 out of a total of 1,829 commercial properties, or 13 percent, due to the high workload they have. They also investigated 22 structure fires, eight vehicle fires, six hazardous material reports, one carbon monoxide case and 61 other cases.

By law, all commercial properties must be inspected once a year.

If the oversight complaints are filed, the state will come down and start helping with inspections, for which they would charge the town a fee, and it could also issue fines, Mr. Bancroft said.

Riverhead Town currently has two full time fire marshals and one part timer.

The town cut one fire marshal position in 2011, a move that drew the ire of local fire departments.

Supervisor Sean Walter questioned the numbers Mr. Bancroft cited, even though Mr. Bancroft got those numbers from the town.

“I would love to show you what the fire marshal shows me as to what they have to inspect and, in fact, it’s nowhere near 1800,” Mr. Walter said.

The supervisor said the town has plans to hire a fire prevention inspector using money the town receives from false alarm fines, money that currently is made available to the individual fire departments.

The difference between a fire marshal and a fire prevention inspector, other than the fire marshal having a higher salary, is that the fire marshal can do more things, such as investigating a fire, issuing summons, investigating hazardous material incidents, reviewing site plan applications and inspecting commercial buildings for fire safety compliance, according to Mr. Bancroft.

The fire prevention inspector would primarily inspect commercial buildings for code compliance, but Mr. Walter says that’s where the problem is, plus the inspector could work on weekends when many special events take place.

“How many fire marshals do you think this town needs?” Mr. Walter asked Mr. Bancroft.
“At least two more,” Mr. Bancroft responded. He acknowledged, however, that the fire prevention inspector would help.

(more…)

05/15/14 8:00am
05/15/2014 8:00 AM
Riverhead Town is taking the homeowner of 331 Hamilton Avenue — and four other properties in town — to court for several reported violations related to overcrowding. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Town is taking the homeowner of 331 Hamilton Avenue — and four other properties in town — to court for several reported violations related to overcrowding. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In January, Riverhead landlord Rickey Taylor promised the town that he would make his rental home on Hamilton Avenue safe to live in by addressing code violations, getting building permits and clearing out the property, which had been targeted in a pair of town raids.

Now, nearly five months later, Mr. Taylor has made good on some of those commitments — not only for that house, but four others as well. And town attorneys say that, for now, he has avoided being held in contempt of court. (more…)

01/15/14 3:00pm
01/15/2014 3:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning. 18 people were living in side, town officials said.

Riverhead town has “received assurances” in court that the owner of an allegedly overcrowded house on Hamilton Avenue will begin fixing fire and town code violations within 30 days, town officials said Wednesday.

Deputy town attorney Bill Duffy appeared in state Supreme Court Tuesday morning and said the attorney for Rickey Taylor — the landlord of the property — agreed to take steps to fix the “numerous” town code violations inside the house at 331 Hamilton Avenue.

Town officials say at least 18 men were living in the two-story single-family house, which was targeted in a code enforcement raid last week.

In the raid, authorities allegedly found some of the occupants had been living in an unfinished cellar that had been divided into makeshift living spaces. The men living in the basement had been sleeping on beds close to exposed wiring, insulation and heating and boiler equipment, authorities said.

There was also evidence that an unheated garage was being used for housing, town officials said.

Town officials said the search also revealed blocked egress, exposed wiring, “excessive” littering, a shortage of smoke detectors and evidence that living areas had been created without building permits or certificates of occupancy, according to the town.

The property was one of four targeted by the Town Board for legal action last March. Mr. Taylor had told town officials last year that he was going to bring the home into compliance, town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said Wednesday.

But that never seems to have happened, he said.

“We had a sense he was going to do the right thing and come into compliance,” he said. “But then we got an indication from neighbors at 331 Hamilton that things weren’t going the way they should.”

Mr. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment this week. However his lawyer, David Gilmartin, Jr., said on Thursday afternoon that “Mr. Taylor is cooperating fully with the town, and promises to ensure the properties will be consistent with the requirements of town code.”

In court Tuesday, Mr. Gilmartin assured the town that those living in unsafe areas had been moved out, Mr. Duffy said. Residents will continue to live in the home while the violations are addressed, he said.

“We didn’t want people being thrown out onto the streets,” Mr. Duffy said. “That’s the tightrope we’re having to walk.”

Mr. Duffy said Mr. Taylor must bring in a licensed electrician by Friday to being to fix the electrical violations in the property and immediately remove objects blocking the exit paths from the house. Mr. Taylor also must apply for building permits to fix the other code violations within 30 days.

Mr. Duffy said town will inspect the house periodically to make sure work is getting done. The court will also be watching to make sure Mr. Taylor keeps his promises, Mr. Duffy said.

“The judge is going to be on top of this,” he said, adding that the town will seek sanctions against Mr. Taylor should he fail to comply.

The town plans to pursue fines against Mr. Taylor for the alleged violations, Mr. Duffy said.

“These are the emergency steps,” he said. “Any stipulation to settle [the violations] will include fines.”

psquire@timesreview.com