South River heralds return of building dept.

Staff Writer

SOUTH RIVER — As of this week, the borough once again has its own building department.

The Borough Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution appointing Glenn Lauritsen as construction official and building subcode official at its Sept. 27 meeting. His annual salary is $65,000.

The Building Department has been up and running since Oct. 1.

The borough has not had its own building department since 2007, when South River’s governing body voted to disband the borough office and enter into a four-year shared-services agreement with Old Bridge for building services. The action involved laying off the borough’s full-time construction official and part-time fire subcode official, who also served as fire inspector and code enforcement officer. Both officials sued the borough after losing their jobs, resulting in settlements.

Along with Lauritsen’s appointment last week, the council also approved Art Londensky to serve as fire inspector and fire subcode official; Ronnie Zammit as code enforcement officer and building inspector; William Roman as plumbing inspector and sub-code official; and Richard Vigliotti as electrical inspector and subcode official.

“When the construction office moved out to Old Bridge, we had a divided council at the time,” said Mayor Raymond T. Eppinger, a Republican who was on the Democrat-controlled council at the time and voted against the disbandment. “We have learned that when we enter into a partnership, there has to be equal partners. In this case there were no equal partners [and that was evident by the] complaints in the borough.”

The mayor said his administration has been working to bring the building department back into the borough since he took office in 2008.

“It took some time to bring it back, and [council President] John Krenzel has always said if we are going to bring it back, we must bring it back in the right way,” he said.

Eppinger added that Lauritsen’s appointment was approved based on a general consensus from the administration and council members, and with feedback from residents.

“He was a great code enforcement official and he was the likely choice for building official,” the mayor said. “He is now certified in a variety and assorted amount of areas to head the construction office.”

Borough Administrator Andrew Salerno said that by the end of the year, Lauritsen will present to the council an analysis of fees for services.

“This is by ordinance that he will have to come up with the rate fees,” he said.

Salerno said money has been appropriated for the building department to run through the end of the year. He said the department will cost the borough $200,000 annually.

“There will be two full-time officials in the department — Glenn and a control person, and the rest will be part-time employees,” he said.

Resident John Scala said he was “thrilled and happy” that South River is going to “keep the money” that he felt the borough gave away to Old Bridge in the past three years.”

“It has to be in the millions,” he said.

Resident Shawn Haussermann said he was concerned about whether the building department would be a self-sufficient operation after being brought back in-house. Borough officials said having the department back makes it self-sufficient.

“This has been a long time coming, and we did it in the right way,” said Eppinger. “We have the procedures, the software to do it the way it should be done.”