By Larry Barszewski

When Ocean Ridge’s full-time building official resigned at the end of February, the town scrambled to contract with a company that handles municipal inspections to take over the duties on an emergency basis.

It took two tries, but now, 10 months later, town commissioners say the temporary fix has turned out to be a vast improvement over what the town had previously. They’re not interested in hiring a full-time official again because they say residents are getting better service without one.

“I think we did the experiment. It completely failed,” Mayor Geoff Pugh said, at the commission’s Dec. 4 meeting, about the town’s 2018 decision to hire an in-house building official.

The town hired Wayne Cameron for the position in 2018, then hired Durrani Guy in 2020 after Cameron left. After Guy resigned, the commission voted in April to contract with CAP Government, Guy’s previous employer, to provide the building official services. But the town soon ended that relationship.

“They wanted to transition the town to utilizing a licensed building official that resides out of state and would only be available on-site one day per month,” Town Manager Lynne Ladner said in an email to The Coastal Star. “This was not an arrangement that was in the best interest of the town.”

In late May, the town turned to Hy-Byrd Inspections, which has had contracts with the town going back many years to provide inspection services. Michael Crisafulle, vice president of the family-owned company, now serves as the building official under the current agreement.

“What we want to do here with building is basically leave it as it is, as it’s going now, because of literally … the compliments that we get now,” Pugh said.

While Ladner said there were benefits to having a building official on staff, including better accessibility, Pugh and others didn’t see that as a critical issue.

“We have the owner of the company being our building official. Does he need to be here every day? No. Does he answer questions? Yes. Sometimes, is he a little hard to get? Yes. But is every question an emergency that needs an answer right then and now? No,” Pugh said.

“He has discretion. He uses his discretion. He doesn’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” the mayor added, saying that Crisafulle doesn’t treat people like he’s doing them a favor by coming out to inspect their properties.

Vice Mayor Steve Coz said not only did having an in-house building official fail to save the town money, it did not provide a better service.

“Do we want to return to a building official where it took three to six months to get anything accomplished, versus right now, it’s three weeks?” Coz asked. “I’m a dead-set no against it.”

Stella Kolb was one of several town residents who applauded the commission’s decision.

“This has been a nightmare,” Kolb said of the previous hiring of a full-time building official. “Not only was it a nightmare for our residents, it was a nightmare for the council. The council was fighting with each other. The council was fighting with the town manager. Let’s not reinvent the wheel.”

As part of the plan, the commission did support hiring a second building clerk in Town Hall to help with the paperwork load.

The town also plans to put in a new software system by BS&A for building permits, but Ladner said it could take up to a year to implement the system because of the company’s backlog of work.

The town already had a contract with another firm, Tyler Technologies, but Ladner wasn’t satisfied with its progress. She recommended earlier in the year that the commission end the contract and go with BS&A instead.

The commission in November approved a $13,500 settlement with Tyler. Ladner said the BS&A system will interface better with new financial software that is being installed in January.

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