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BUILDING INSPECTOR and TOWNSHIP ELECTRICIAN
The matters which are primarily the subject of inspection by any municipality, aside from those relating distinctly to health, which will be spoken of in another part of the report, are building, plumbing and electrical installations. In Teaneck the inspection of electric wiring is left to the Board of Underwriters, but both the inspection of buildings and the plumbing inspection are assumed as Township functions.
One of the difficulties which the smaller municipalities have in getting proper inspectional service is to find competent persons to make the inspections at salaries which the municipality can afford. In the Township of Teaneck the question of plumbing inspection has been solved by requiring the Health Officer to make these inspections. This work, together with his other duties, makes practically a full time job. Often in many of the smaller municipalities it is customary to select men who also do private work. This was the case with the Building Inspector in Teaneck up to 1930. Recognizing the disadvantage of this, it was decided to combine the position of Building Inspector and Township Electrician, appointing to the combined offices a man capable of handling both.
Beginning in 1933 a still further change was made in that the combined offices were put on a flat salary basis, the amount being fixed at $1,800. At the beginning of the year it was not known to how low an ebb new construction might fall, and it was not considered good practice to have a building inspector employed at less than living wage. The table at the beginning of this section shows the total costs of these two services during recent years. Naturally the decline in new construction has had its effect thereon.
The following table shows statistics concerning the building operations since 1928:
Building Permits, Valuations and Fees Collected
From the above it will be noted that both in the number of buildings and in the valuations there has been a constant decline since 1928. Even at this, any municipality in the State of New Jersey which can do half a million dollars worth of new buildings a year, practically all of it in homes, has nothing to fear for the future. In fact, comparative building figures for recent years show that of all of the municipalities in New Jersey, including even Jersey City, Newark, Camden and Trenton, Teaneck has been consistently fourth or fifth in the State in the volume of work done.
Considerable revision has been made in the manner of conducting inspector's office, beginning with the installation of new application forms requiring full information. A signed agreement is required whereby the applicant agrees to abide by all the provisions of the building code and zoning code. In addition to this he must make an affidavit as to the cost. On the application there are also shown blanks for the inspector's report, showing the date the job was visited, the progress, instructions left, changes made, etc.
In general every building is visited at least four times. In addition to the actual plans for the building, plot plans drawn to scale are required which show the dimension of the lot, size of the building, location upon the lot, dimensions of all open spaces, established side lines and such other information as may be necessary in order to ascertain whether a building will comply in all respects with the zoning law as well as with the building law.
A new filing system was installed in which all plans are filed flat in numerical order, with a proper filing index kept. The Building Inspector keeps a chart showing the total construction throughout the year.
Enforcement of the building code has been tightened up in general. For instance, new materials are inspected before work is begun. Concrete or mortar is not permitted to be mixed on the ground, plastering on the outside of foundation wall is inspected before the backfill is made, the wall is required to be topped by solid cement blocks, no girder spacing of more than 8 feet is permitted, all headers 4 feet or over are set up with bridle irons, the proper size of nails required, roofs are braced with collar beams, flue lining must be set in cement mortar, close attention is given to the provision of proper fire stops, and garages attached to dwellings must be properly fireproofed and ventilated. As to this last point, detailed specifications agreeing with the requirements of the National Board of Fire Underwriters were issued early in 1931. The most recent requirement was to prohibit any work being done on fireplaces except in the presence of the inspector and prohibiting any changes however minor after acceptance without notice to the inspector.
The Township building code dates back to 1927, and as far as dwellings are concerned it is fairly adequate, given strict interpretation and enforcement. The code, however, leaves much to be desired in the erection of multiple family dwellings and in apartments. One of its major deficiencies was that it didn't specify fire limits; that is, sections of the Township in which the construction must be of a higher grade, in general fireproof. This omission in the code has been one of the factors that has prevented the Township heretofore from getting a higher rating than Class "E" from the Board of Fire Underwriters. The omission was recently remedied by an amendment to the Code.
Advantage was taken of the "make work" program of 1932 to employ a competent man to revise the building code, work which was originally started in 1931 by an advisory board appointed for that purpose. After a comparison of codes of various municipalities of the size of Teaneck with the Standard Codes of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, this engineer evolved a code which has since been submitted to the Engineers of the Board of Fire Underwriters, and with a few suggested changes will meet with their approval.
The proposed code, which is about ready for introduction by Council, is divided into two parts; first, the code itself, which covers the general regulations for buildings, and secondly, the book of practice, which by reference to it in the code itself is made binding upon all builders. This book of practice deals with the details of construction. This method of separation, which is used in Englewood, has the double purpose of saving costs in the advertising of the code, and permitting revision in practices from time to time to comply with the best methods as they may exist at that time, without necessitating the revision of the Building Code ordinance. Because of the expense attached to printing and publishing the Code, it is believed desirable to submit it to all builders and others interested before it is introduced as an ordinance.
An ordinance of 1927 designates that a person shall be appointed as the Township Electrician to supervise, construct and maintain the fire alarm signal systems of the Township, and to do all the electrical work which may be necessary on the Township property, including the inspection, repair and maintenance of electric signs. The rate of pay is not stipulated. Based on precedent at the time of the appointment, it was originally agreed that the Township Electrician should be compensated at the union rates paid for electrical work, or $1.75 an hour. This was afterwards modified to the extent that a flat charge of $1.50 was substituted for each call made to attend a traffic signal, no matter what the trouble therein might be or what time of the day or night the call came. In 1933 the position, combined with that of Building Inspector, was taken off a fee or charge basis, and a salary of $1,800 for the combined offices was set.
After tests were conducted in conjunction with a representative of the Public Service Company as to the line voltage at the signals, to determine if possible the reason for numerous lamps being burned out, the Township Electrician made changes in the candle power and type of the traffic signal lamps, which has produced a saving in the total cost of the current consumed and in lamp renewals.
Occasionally traffic standards are demolished by accidents. In practically all of these cases we were able to collect the damages therefor from the automobile owner or his insurance company.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410