Help wanted: One (or two) building inspectors
New Shoreham Building Official Marc Tillson has put the town on notice that he will be officially retiring from his fulltime position at the end of October 2020, after 30 years on the job, and that action should be taken to find a successor, or two, as soon as possible.
Tillson reminded the Town Council at its meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15, that he first alerted the town that he was retiring back in September 2018. Despite the fact that a classified ad announcing the job was placed in The Block Island Times, no action other than that has been taken on finding Tillson’s successor. (The ad received one response from a person without the necessary qualifications.)
Tillson again notified the town in October 2019 that he would be willing to stay on for another year, but he informed the council at the Wednesday meeting that he never heard back. “I’ve had no response from the town,” he said at the meeting.
Tillson said that there was more at stake than just filling his position. Construction is the second largest industry in the Town of New Shoreham, and he said that contractors were concerned about what will happen next if that position is not filled. The Building Official is the only person who can issue a building permit, he said.
By making the announcement of his retirement public, Tillson said he hoped that there would be someone in the community — or beyond — that would be interested in the position.
“It’s a great career,” Tillson said during a meeting with The Block Island Times before the Wednesday meeting. He said the job was rewarding and came with a great benefits package.
The scope of the Building Official’s job on Block Island is unique. While the Building Official is the only person who can issue a building permit, the job also encompasses the building inspector, electrical inspector, plumbing inspector, mechanical inspector, zoning enforcement officer, the Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems inspector, flood plain manager, and the point of contact for the Coastal Resources Management Council.
Given the range of credentials the building official needs, and the relatively brief timeframe between now and Tillson’s retirement, he’s recommending the town hire two people to fill two separate positions: a residential inspector and a zoning enforcement officer.
Tillson said he would maintain his state certification as building official to assist the town in issuing building permits and the like after his official retirement if need be.
Interim Town Manager Jim Kern had met with Tillson briefly, and read the documents Tillson had provided the town, but said he needed a little more time to recommend what the next steps would be.
“You’ve got a lot going on here,” said Kern. “It’s not that I don’t follow it. I do. But there’s a lot.” Kern said that while he needed time to study the situation, “it won’t fade down.”
Tillson first wrote to the town on Sept. 18, 2018 stating it was his “intent to retire from my position as Building Official in December of 2019. As of that date, I will have completed thirty years of service to this community.”
Tillson said he used the phrase “’intent to retire’… based on my understanding that the Town must begin its search for a new Building Official now.”
In listing the certifications needed for the position he holds, Tillson said “the required training and State certification for these positions may take years.”
On Dec. 11, 2019, Tillson again wrote to former Town Manager Ed Roberge saying, “To begin, I am willing to continue in my position as the Town’s Building Official for a finite period of time but no longer than October of 2020.” Tillson said that a search for a residential inspector should “immediately begin.”
At the Wednesday meeting, Councilor Chris Willi said that “to find someone with your qualifications is going to be… impossible.”
“The clock is ticking and you have to act quickly,” Tillson responded. Adding, again, that “it’s a great job for someone.”
“It’s a serious situation and now we have to do something about it,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste.
At the close of his 2018 letter, Tillson said, “I want to thank this Town Council and the numerous councils I have worked with over the (shall I say it?) decades for their continued support. I thank all of the town employees I have depended upon for their help in all aspects of administrating our local government. A special thank you to all of the past and present fire chiefs, firefighters and rescue personnel and fire scene investigations. I will miss providing assistance and guidance to property owners during their construction projects on the island, and all the builders, contractors and subcontractors that I have worked with over the years. Our community should be proud of the men and women who work in the island’s second largest industry; they do a great job!”