Bethel Park expands code enforcement team
If you worry that a tree or two in your yard might not withstand the next windstorm, so does Jeff Donatelli.
“Some of these trees are in excess of 40 to 50 feet tall,” he said. “They fall down; they cause a lot of damage. God forbid, they hurt somebody. So we’ve been out there cracking down on that as hard as possible, getting them removed the proper way.”
As one of a three code enforcement officers in Bethel Park – the third position was created recently, and he filled it a couple of months ago – one of Donatelli’s responsibilities is keeping an eye out for such hazards. He’ll give notice to property owners and doesn’t expect results immediately, as tree services often need to be booked a week or two in advance.
“So as long they’re showing me some kind of contract or something in an email that they have an agreement, I’m willing to give them ample time to get it done,” Donatelli said. “But it’s something they need to realize: It has to get done. It’s not going away, and neither am I.”
That type of persistence is indicative of the municipal goal to take a more vigilant stance on ensuring safety and compliance within the community, with Donatelli joining Dennis Smith, who also came aboard this year, and veteran Todd Carter on the code enforcement team.
“I think it’s a new day in Bethel Park in regard to enforcing the rules and laws, and they realize the importance of how this helps to maintain our community and make it better,” District Judge Ronald Arnoni said shortly after swearing in the relative newcomers on July 12. “They’re not only professional and know their job well, but I’ve seen an influx of cases, and I can see that they’re taking this very seriously.”
Municipal manager Shawn Arbaugh said the Department of Building Inspection and Code Enforcement has been receiving more calls from residents reporting potential violations, as a hotline has been established at 412-851-2777.
“They see our code enforcement vehicle everywhere and know that we’re a presence in the community. We’re really cracking down on property maintenance violations, and Dennis has been concentrating a lot on folks who build without permits. If it’s something where they don’t necessarily need to tear down, then he’s able to work to work with them and does it in a fair manner, but strict, to make sure that it’s safe.”
Smith mentioned swimming pools, sheds, decks and porch roofs as some of the more common amenities that are constructed without property owners securing building permits. According to the municipal website, other examples include new roofs, new windows of different sizes, electrical service replacements, fences that are more than six feet tall, basement finishing and foundation drainage.
“The process of getting a permit is very easy,” Smith said. “A lot of these things, you can get on the same day you apply.”
Questions regarding the need for a permit should be directed to 412-831-6800, extension 133 or 135, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The point of the permit has nothing to do with the municipality collecting money,” Smith explained. “It all comes down to the safety of residents and visitors.”