Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER – With the demand for construction inspection services provided by Ocean County continuing to decrease over the years, Ocean County will now move to disband the division.
"Ocean County will stop performing construction inspection services by mid-year and will disband the division," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the division. "This is not an easy decision to reach but it is no longer feasible to provide this service.
"The division which was suppose to be financially self-sufficient has been running in the red for sometime and it is no longer cost-effective for the county to provide this service," Vicari said.
Municipalities that currently receive this service from the County will be notified shortly as will the 17 employees of the division.
"We will try and work with those municipalities that still rely on the county for this service," Vicari said. "We would recommend they try to join with municipalities already performing the inspections as a cost saving measure.
"We also will do all we can to assist the 17 employees affected by this action," Vicari said.
Historically, the County provided electrical inspections. During the 1980s, changes in state licensing requirements for inspectors resulted in the County agreeing to provide Construction All Code agreements to the 33 Ocean County towns and one in Burlington County.
According to Ralph B. Patterson, Ocean County Director of Management and Budget, beginning in the early 1990s, various municipalities made the decision to terminate their Construction All Code Agreements with the County and perform inspections on their own.
"The first to set up their own was Plumsted Township in 1991," Patterson said. "Berkeley Township followed in 1992, with Stafford Township leaving the county service in 1997."
Also opting out were Lacey, Brick, Jackson, Lakewood, Little Egg Harbor, Eagleswood, Ocean, Barnegat, and Toms River townships along with Seaside Park and Tuckerton.
"As the towns began to do their own inspections, the demand on the county service decreased," Patterson said. "It is no longer financially feasible for the County to continue to provide this service.
"There is a minimal amount of revenues coming in from the inspections currently being done," Patterson said.
"Even if we raised the fees we would not resolve the current funding shortfalls," Patterson said.
The county performs a full compliment of inspections for five municipalities including Beachwood, Lakehurst, Lavallette, Pine Beach and South Toms River.
The remaining 14 towns contract with the County for plumbing, electrical or fire inspections.
Vicari said the decision to disband the division, which is a part of the Department of Consumer Affairs, was not an easy one to reach but has to be done based on economics and the fact the funding is no longer there to support it.
"These are all valuable and many long-time employees that have served the county and its municipalities well," Vicari said. "This is a very difficult thing to do but because of the change in demands and the needs we can no longer financially support this division."
Fees collected for inspections are placed in a separate "trust account" to be used exclusively to support the operations of the division in accordance with state requirements.
According to Patterson, the fees being collected can no longer support the payroll and operational expenses.
For instance, on Jan. 1, 2007, the division had a trust account balance of $450,305. The fees collected for the remaining services during 2007 caused the department to run in a deficit position, resulting in reducing the balance in the trust to $209,950 as of Dec. 31, 2007.
"During the past four years, all of the fees collected have been dedicated to the payment of the department's payroll," Patterson said. "Other expenses including employee fringe benefits and vehicle expenses have been borne by the County."