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Communications issues prompt changes in Bombay code enforcement

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MALONE - The new year is bringing in new rules for Bombay’s code enforcement position.

Stricter regulations, effective immediately, come as a direct result of current code enforcer Pete Ghostlaw’s unavailability to town residents and a lack of communication with the town board, according to discussion during Wednesday night’s town board meeting.

The town will now invest in carbon-copy building permits that record every monetary transaction for code enforcement. They will be distributed to the code enforcer through the town clerk, with receipts and money turned into the town board every month.

Every code enforcer, present and future, will also be required to hold regular office hours at the town hall, with a minimum of one night a month in the building.

When contacted about the new rules, Mr. Ghostlaw said he’d heard nothing about them from the board. He had been absent from the meeting due to work.

“I haven’t been contacted by anybody from the board so I wouldn’t know what was going on,” he said.

Discussion about the code enforcement position stemmed from a letter Mr. Ghostlaw had emailed to Supervisor Mary Taylor the day of the meeting. She read it aloud to the board on Wednesday.

In the letter, Mr. Ghostlaw listed his first goal for the new year as “better communication with board members.” The statement was met with a pause and then sighs from the majority of those in the room.

Mr. Ghostlaw has been absent from monthly town meetings since August.

He said Thursday that he is often unable to attend meetings because he sometimes works nights — and last month he was sick and bedridden for four days.

The main problem, according to Ms. Taylor, is that August is also the last time Mr. Ghostlaw turned in funds collected through his position.

“We can’t have that. People have checks that are outstanding and people close bank accounts. I know at least one of the local banks went out,” Ms. Taylor said. “We could be sitting on a bad check because it wasn’t deposited in a timely manner.”

Ms. Taylor said Mr. Ghostlaw told her he would turn in $333 owed the board on Wednesday. Despite her staying there until 5 p.m. and returning for the meeting at 7 p.m., she said he never showed up.

“I was going to go into her today but I never got a chance to get up there,” said Mr. Ghostlaw. “No big deal.”

Further promises from Mr. Ghostlaw’s letter of providing “paperless reports” for the board was greeted by a statement from Town Clerk Jen Reardon that “he already does that,” referencing a complete lack of paperwork in recent months.

Mr. Ghostlaw said there haven’t been any permits issued since October, so there really isn’t anything to report.

But the general feeling in the board room was one of frustration and exasperation.

“It’s not that we don’t like Pete, it’s just that he has a problem communicating,” said Ms. Taylor. “From the financial end, that has to be rectified. He needs to turn his money in in a timely manner. And he’s paid to communicate with us and the public. These things have to happen.”

A Bombay resident present at the meeting also voiced his personal experience with contacting Mr. Ghostlaw.

“I had to have a few things checked out, and the building code guy had to do it, and I called him every day for a week,” said Terry Reed. “And his message thing was full.”

The board was not surprised.

Mr. Ghostlaw said in his letter that only 14 building permits were issued in the town during 2013, chalking up the low number to “a lack of work in the area” and calling it a “trying year for the town.”

“The first few years in this position with the town of Bombay have been a challenge and a learning position,” said Mr. Ghostlaw in the letter. “I am still working on gathering more information and education to assist the residents of the town and to do my job better.”

Mr. Ghostlaw is paid $5,740 per year.

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