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W’sport seeks new codes admin, retiree reflects on years of improvements

The City of Williamsport is searching for an administrator of the Bureau of Codes after the former retired from the job about a week ago.

Joseph Gerardi, 62, who was hired by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, who recruited him from Loyalsock Township, is no longer working for the city.

Gerardi said he was eligible to retire after working for the city for 15 years and 20 years before that with the township.

“I’ve been in building and property codes enforcement for 35 years,” he said. “I have no bad feelings toward anybody.”

“It’s been a week now. I might get around and do some odd jobs here and there. I like mechanical things and cars, have a cottage in Berwick — may do a little fishing and spend time with the grandchildren.”

Over three decades of public safety assurance

Campana offered Gerardi the chance to come to the city.

The city native took it.

“I wanted the city to look a little better and cleaner,” Gerardi said.

What began as a mayoral campaign to check on rentals — which comprised half or more of the city housing stock — began in earnest.

The rental property inspection was tied into the public safety aspects of the city.

It was linked to codes, police and fire bureaus — all of whom tried to create safer and better atmospheres and environments for the landlords and the tenants and neighborhoods.

Although writing the initial rental inspection ordinance led to lessons learned in overreach and certain landlords filing federal lawsuits regarding private concerns, for the most part, the ordinances that were settled on and legally reviewed spared landlords and tenants misery, protecting these properties by ensuring proper inspection and oversight, working smoke detectors, compliant electrical and plumbing systems were operational and that the interior and exterior of the structures were safe to reside in.

Likewise, Gerardi also spent years on efforts to reduce property blight.

Today, of the city’s 10,000 parcels, only about 20 parcels remain that are considered to be blighted, Gerardi said.

“I think that is a pretty good percentage,” he said.

The blighted property review board was given an expanded role when commercial and industrial properties blight was added, Gerardi said.

“We started with close to 200 blighted properties and over the years have reduced it down to a handful each month,” he said.

As a codes administrator he ran a department budget of about $870,000 annually, overseeing building code compliance.

He was tasked with getting an estimate on the damage and what would be required to reopen City Hall, after it was condemned last fall due to damage from rain leaking through the roof and later damage from a water leak from burst pipes later in December.

Gerardi frequently assisted with questions regarding planning commission recommendations and meetings and also was tasked with ensuring the city met its accessibility needs under federal law.

The bureau is responsible for inspections of rental properties.

It also looks at inspections of new businesses, houses, building, and construction projects, electrical inspections (completed by a third-party contractor), all zoning ordinances, and property maintenance in the city.

Codes also issues building, electrical, plumbing, event, and demolition permits.

The administrator is primarily responsible for providing building code administration in accordance with adopted building codes and city ordinances for the purpose of providing safe building construction and utilization of buildings throughout the city of Williamsport.

The administrator performs administrative, supervisory, and technical work related to building code compliance.

A list of all the requirements, salary ranges and the application process for those who are qualified applicants for the position are on the city website.

As part of the relocation of city employees, the department is located at the River Valley Transit building at 1500 W. Third St.

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