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Jun 25, 2019 1:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Code Enforcement Department Coordinates Social Services To Help People in Crisis, at Risk

Guests at the Bridgehampton CAC meeting on Monday included, center to right, Southampton Town code enforcement officer Mickey Chih, town public safety and emergency management administrator Steven Troyd, and Mary O’Brien of the town’s Dark Skies Committee. Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni and CAC chair Pamela Harwood are at left. By Peter Boody
Jun 25, 2019 1:46 PM

Southampton Town’s code enforcement department does more than answer complaints about code violations, its top official, Steven Troyd, told the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee at its monthly meeting Monday night. It also coordinates services for seniors who live alone and can’t take care of themselves or their properties.

There’s “a whole process of reaching out to help people. That’s where we’re going with code enforcement,” said Mr. Troyd, whose title is public safety and emergency management administrator. He was joined at the meeting by his department’s enforcement officer, Mickey Chih, who talked about his enforcement efforts.

There’s “a degree of coordination that code enforcement is providing with different departments and jurisdictions,” added Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, who also attended the CAC session. “It’s working out well.” He called it a “fantastic” effort.

With a visit from Mary O’Brien and Olivia Motch of the town’s Dark Skies Committee also on the agenda, the CAC members were particularly interested in how to deal with property owners who violate the town’s 26-page outdoor lighting code. One person at the CAC meeting singled out a large house on Ocean Road, the former Topping farmhouse site, telling Mr. Troyd the place was “lit up like a Christmas tree” all night, every night.

“Give me the address and we’ll check into it,” Mr. Troyd told her.

Except for security lighting, which must be connected to a motion sensor and a timer to turn it off once it has been activated, the code requires “non-essential” outdoor lighting at both residential and commercial properties to be turned off at midnight. Speaking of enforcement, Mr. Chih talked about Mattress Firm, the former Sleepy’s mattress retailer on Montauk Highway, which he said has “has a multitude” of illegal signs. “He’s my pet peeve,” he said, calling him “the worst sign violator I’ve ever seen. I try to keep him in check.”

While lighting and signage violations in Bridgehampton were on the CAC members’ minds, they reacted enthusiastically to the news that Mr. Troyd’s department also steps in to help people who can’t keep up with their properties.

“You don’t think of this with code enforcement,” said CAC chairwoman Pamela Harwood. She urged Mr. Troyd to spread the word about it and she called on the press to publicize it. “It’s a story that needs to be told every year,” she said.

Reviewing some recent examples of the department’s “higher purpose,” as he put it, Mr. Troyd said he and his staff have “put together working groups” that include the county’s Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services (APS), social workers from the area’s two hospitals, town fire marshals and code enforcement personnel to “talk to people in crisis or at risk in their community, people who get separated from their family, through time and distance, and they’re alone,” either boarding or in their own homes “that are in very bad shape and they have fire issues, and they’re collecting newspapers for some reason, and throwing trash in the basement because they can’t afford to have it taken away.”

He told of a woman, a hoarder, who was a regular visitor to the town’s Flanders Senior Center, where director Liz Dwyer was working to assist her. Mr. Troyd’s department was also aware of her because of code violations at her home.

“We didn’t know two departments in the same town were working on the same person,” he said, “until there was an incident where she was found” pinned for two days under her own belongings in her home. “My guys went there and found her. They got her to the hospital and they got her united with her family in the Southwest somewhere,” he said.

In another case, a man who also was a hoarder and with infections that were not healing refused to go to the hospital. A team that included 12 people from various agencies including code enforcement finally persuaded him to go. “He hasn’t been home in a couple of months now, but he’s healing.” Mr. Troyd said, adding that he speaks to him regularly and has gotten his son and brother involved in the matter.

“It’s a whole process of reaching out to people to help this person,” Mr. Troyd said. “That’s a success story and that’s where we’re going with code enforcement.”

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