The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections should separate its building inspection function from the business licensing and other economic development responsibilities, according to the latest report on the challenges facing the troubled agency.
A report by the Building Safety Oversight Board, released Tuesday, outlined progress made so far by L&I and offered several other recommendations, including hiring more personnel to carry out needed reforms. The board, led by former deputy mayor Michael Nadol, evaluated the recommendations made last year by a special commission that reviewed L&I's role in the 2013 fatal building collapse. Both committees were appointed by Mayor Nutter.
Given the timing of the report - less than two weeks until the end of Nutter's term - the recommendations will fall to the next administration.
Dave Perri, mayor-elect Jim Kenney's choice for L&I Commissioner, said all recommendations will be vetted by him and other Kenney administration officials. However, he said that he does not think moving the licensing function to the new Department of Planning and Development, as suggested by the report, is a good idea.
"To me, licenses and inspections go hand-in-hand," Perri said Tuesday. "How you operate a building is equally as important as how a building is constructed."
Other key recommendations listed in the report:
- Fill 42 L&I vacancies that have already been budgeted.
- Expand the law department's capacity to enforce code violations in court.
- Create a temporary Project Management Office to coordinate the implementation of recommended changes.
- Create a position of a Director of Vacant and Abandoned Properties to oversee all operations dealing with vacant properties (Sheriff's Sales, Land Bank, Redevelopment Authority, etc.)
- Create a position of Chief Safety Officer.
The 63-page report includes a progress update on the 37 recommendations the prior commission made and that the Nutter administration began to implement.
Nutter commissioned the first panel in the aftermath of the 22d and Market Streets building collapse on June 5, 2013, that killed six people and injured 13.
The commission looked at L&I's overall operations, and made recommendations to improve the department.
Following that commission's report, the administration drafted an internal report, outlining the staffing and funds the city would need to fulfill the commission's recommendations.
Both reports were reviewed by the Building Safety Oversight Board.
Perri has reviewed the board's report and said he sees it as a "guiding document" to use when he assumed the L&I Commissioner role. He vowed that public safety will be his mission, reiterating his belief that part of making sure buildings are safe is keeping track of proper licensing.
"Building safety is more than bricks and mortar. It's also operational," Perri said.