A battle between the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and Atlantic City officials over code enforcement in the Tourism District appears to be headed toward a resolution, although questions remain.
Anthony Cox, director of licensing and inspections, said the city had assigned two part-time inspectors already on the city's payroll exclusively to the Tourism District. The move, made Sept. 1, is an effort to comply with the CRDA's request to increase enforcement in the district.
Initially, the agreement called for the city to hire two full-time contractors for the positions, but a request for proposals advertised by the city for one day over the summer returned no responses.
"In the meantime, the city and CRDA are amending their agreement to allow the city to hire two full-time inspectors (funded by CRDA) as originally planned," Cox wrote in an email.
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said the authority had yet to decide whether the city's proposal was acceptable. The city first offered only two part-time inspectors, which confused authority officials because funding had been provided for double that staffing. The board learned collectively at a meeting last Monday that the city's offer had changed only after a contentious discussion ensued.
CRDA Vice Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the issue had almost become a joke because of the amount of time it has consumed. During the public meeting, he said he believed the delays had been political.
"This is different from the proposal presented to us a few weeks ago for two part-time code enforcement officers and is welcome news," Palmieri said. "But until we confirm the offer and its conditions and put it into an agreement that clearly defines the city's responsibilities and ours, I can't say that it is acceptable."
Nearly seven months ago, the CRDA voted to devote $130,000 to hire two additional full-time building inspectors or four part-time inspectors assigned solely to the district. City officials had said insufficient staffing was to blame for a lack of enforcement.
CRDA officials have become increasingly impatient with the pace of the city's progress. Meanwhile, Democratic Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who will face Republican Don Guardian, executive director of the CRDA's Special Improvement Division, in the November election, has said there are more pressing issues that require city resources.
Langford, a member of the CRDA's board, did not attend last week's meeting.
Meanwhile, some have suggested turning to lawmakers in Trenton to transfer code-enforcement responsibilities to the CRDA. Planning and zoning functions within the Tourism District were turned over to the authority in 2011 through the legislation that created the district.
In a discussion of the issue at a CRDA meeting last week, Atlantic County Chief of Staff Howard Kyle asked whether accepting the city's offer now would preclude the CRDA from pursuing legislation later. Officials said it would not.
Cox answered a reporter's questions by email. He did not respond to a request for the names of the code-enforcement inspectors being assigned to the Tourism District. He also did not address a request for comment about the contentious nature of the CRDA's discussions.
"The inspectors are on the city's payroll and (are) not being paid by CRDA funding. The remaining complement of the city's code enforcement inspection staff will continue to do citywide inspections to include the district," Cox wrote.
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