Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz on Wednesday reiterated what has been said time and again: The Department of Licenses and Inspections needs more inspectors and a better data system.
The Controller's Office reviewed 5,700 privately owned vacant properties and found that 791 were listed as "open" violation cases, meaning problems had not been resolved.
Of those, 101 were considered unsafe, hazardous, or imminently dangerous. He criticized the department as not being more proactive.
"We manually and physically sent people out to do eyeballing and do visual inspection," Butkovitz said at a news conference Wednesday. "If we did that, they can do that, if they have the proper staffing."
The controller said L&I needs from 136 to 156 inspectors. The department has 56 code inspectors.
L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said he and other city administrators have been discussing staffing as the next budget cycle approaches. He would not say how many inspectors he wants.
"The number of inspectors is part of the process," Williams said. "You have to have enforcement not just through the department but through courts, attorneys."
Williams was part of a committee of administration officials who drafted a report last month that suggested 110 new employees would be needed to fix L&I. The solution had an estimated price tag of $13.9 million.
The report is the administration's response to recommendations made by a mayor's special independent advisory commission, which in October suggested 37 steps for reforming L&I.
To pay for the additional inspectors and demolitions, Butkovitz said, the city needs to prioritize.
"You balance that against life and safety, at a time when the city spent over $50 million to build an ice-skating rink in front of City Hall," he said. "If they do not enforce the basic safety requirements on building construction and demolition, people die."