Trenton is committing revitalization suicide

Walking the streets of Trenton, just about the best sounds you can hear are that of nail guns, circular saws and drills. They’re the sounds of revitalization. There’s a hopeful tone to the noise and the sight of a crew, hard at work, means that someone is investing in our city.

You would think that we would do everything in our power to preserve the productive work of re-building Trenton. Yet, we’ve done exactly the opposite.

The City Administration has drastically cut our inspections department and raised permit fees. While I have had many complaints about our inspections department over the years, it is a fact that more and more experienced inspectors are good for renovation. Every time a developer or contractor is held up waiting for an inspection, it is money out of their pocket. The effect of reducing inspectors has been to slow or stop new renovation projects in Trenton. It has made Trenton a worse place to live and to invest.

As citizens and investors in Trenton I urge you to take some action to reverse this dangerous course our administration has taken.

There is a City Council meeting on Thursday Aug. 6 at 5pm in City Hall where several local contractors plan to make their appeal. I have attached an impassioned letter from contractor Roberto Negron to his fellow contractor that addresses this issue from a contractor’s point of view.

From a taxpayers point of view I can tell you that this reduction in inspectors is standing between you and the increase in ratables needed to lower your taxes. My wife and I are planning a significant renovation to our home that would increase its value. However, our contractor tells us we will be delayed due to the slow-down at city hall. You’re better off with me and every other investor paying additional property tax on our renovations.

Usually, I try to point out economic problems in Trenton that aren’t obvious to the average reader. Increasing, rather than decreasing, our inspections department seems too obvious to require my attention.

I will also suggest that short of increasing staff, perhaps there are other options for preserving our rate of revitalization. For instance, additional certification of architects and contractors might qualify them to self-inspect. Perhaps certain classes of project could no longer require an inspection. Also there are most likely streamlining approaches for the department that have either not been contemplated.

Trenton should be the easiest place in which to invest, not the hardest.


Letter from Roberto Negron

Trenton Contractors Unite;

The City of Trenton has been more than home to many of us.  We have built businesses and relationships that have allowed us to buy a home, raise a family, and send our children to school, college and more.

We are contractors and service providers. We are a vital part of our city’s growth.  We are the connection between the homeowners and our city’s inspections department.  We know the streets, the neighborhoods, and the people.  We have a common goal, to give the best service, in the timeliest fashion, in order to stay ahead of our obligations and provide for our families.

Our city government, in an attempt to manage the needs of its constituents and meet budget constraints, has deemed it necessary to cut back personnel in our construction department including building, electrical, plumbing and fire.  While this may make sense looking at an expense report, it does not make sense from a practical business stance.

We the contractors are the mainstream of this business.  We have the obligation to connect the consumer, our customers with the permit application process.  We especially value this process and stand by our city government in the decision to increase permits fees by 75 percent.  We understand business.  We are willing to pay the extra cost, but why are we not receiving increase in service?  To increase the price of any product or service by 75 percent for fewer products is just not a good business concept.

Our building department has been regarded by those of us that have doing business in the city for decades, as an essential part of not just doing business, but growing our business.  Growing is the optimum word.  Our city has been in a continuing growth mode.  We the small contractors are a very essential cog in the growth continuum.

What are the issues?  Due to cut back in personnel, the plan review process has been slowed down. Plumbing and electrical sub code official are now required to do plan review 2 hours and inspections the other 5hours. This is literally cutting services by 75 percent.  Secondly the implementation of providing contracts to determine final permit cost is not as systematic for building permits as they are for plumbing and electrical permits.  The raising of permit fees by 75% is not an issue because we understand the city’s need to increase revenue.  Contracts in the building trade sometimes include many facets that are not applicable in determining final permit cost.  Many contractors are unaware of this and it is creating conflicts and threatens our ability to close deals with customers.  Some items should not be reflected in tallying up permit fees  such as garbage removal and disposal, doors, windows, painting, kitchen cabinets,  counter tops, flooring finishes, trim etc,.

We desire to inform our city officials of the real day to day problems that are affecting our businesses and our customers.  We also want to make contractors aware of those things we can do, within the parameters of legislation, to minimize unnecessary expenses to our customers.

It is my opinion that the original inspector whom where laid off and or demoted, should be rehired, for only they will have the ability to jump right in, to get us back on track.

I believe the City should explore asking other Cities that have had successes in optimizing their building departments, for ideas and structure training sessions that include the contractors.  This will in the long run, but with shortest time lapse work to streamline all pertinent processes.   To completely outsource inspections to private firm, will create more chaos and take a much longer timeline with uncertainty of final outcome.  I understand that many townships have tried privatization and I know that many contractors have reservations in working in areas with part time or privatized inspection.  We know they incurred delays.  Delays equal loss of revenue and added stress.  Our city has different characteristics in architecture and atmosphere from many townships.  Time and experience has been the ally which has helped afford me success here.  The inspectors that have acquired so much experience and rapport with the contractors are also indispensable.

I invite you to join me Thursday August 6, 2009 5pm at city council meeting.  This is our opportunity to stand united and voice our position.  Invite your customers to join us.  I urge you to write your individual experiences in acquiring permits and or inspection.  This is our time to make our city official understand that if we are paying more they should not take our much needed resources’ away.  Our inspections department can use improvement, just as our own individual companies and proprietorship can use improvement. However, if we are going to pay more, we should be receiving more.

“We the people” is the opening statement for our Declaration of Independence.  It has always been “We the people”.  But if “We the people” slumber we will have no grounds to stand on, much less fight for.

Trenton Contractors Unite!

Roberto Negrón General Contractor


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2 Responses to “Trenton is committing revitalization suicide”

  • Dan, I will be there on Thursday at the Council meeting and look forward to hearing what folks have to say about this issue. Council will have the opportunity to address the Inspections issue, when we get hold of the FY2010 budget.

    I assure you I will be looking for savings in other areas and then redirecting that funding to the Inspections Department.


  • Zachary A. Chester:

    I agree! “Trenton should be the easiest place in which to invest, not the hardest.”

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