A look at the daily job of enforcing Township codes to help all residents reap the benefits of a clean, beautifully maintained Cheltenham.
Constantly on the move to address various Township property issues is Code Administrator Al Sergio, with Cheltenham Township for 6 years.
A typical day for Al starts with reviewing his email and voicemails for resident complaints. He also keeps a regular schedule of inspections for the day, and follows up by visiting the sites of complaints as it fits into his day. He also must adjust those priorities to deal with emergencies that arise, such as fallen trees, sink holes, and more.
On average, Al visits 48 properties each month. He states that the most common code infractions are related to property maintenance – things such as overgrowth, trees, and trash. He also inspects sidewalks and things reported in the creek. The general code enforcement process begins when he receives a complaint. He then investigates the situation, and depending on his findings, will have to proceed with enforcement, or document the complaint as null and void.
Before issuing a citation, Al makes it the priority to work with all parties for a good outcome. He tries to resolve things on a personal basis without going to enforcement, which includes communicating with both parties. Al says this can be tricky at times, because many complaints received include disclaimers like, “I don’t want to complain about my neighbor because I like them; please don’t give them my name.” While he understands the potential awkwardness of such a situation, Al would encourage residents to have a personal conversation with a neighbor first – but he’s happy to help whenever he can. In fact, being a good communicator is Al’s favorite part of the job: “I love working with the community and the residents. I’m a problem solver. Sometimes, you have to be strict with people and tell them flat out, ‘This is how it is, how it’s going to be,’ but communicating and helping people across the Township is what keeps me positive.”
Al said that while many people may not be familiar with the exact Township codes and ordinances for what qualifies as property blight, the best starting point would be to just “Be a good neighbor,” and to maintain and upkeep your property – whether it’s your primary residence or not – to look like the rest of the properties on the street.
While Al is the sole staff member to hold the title Code Administrator, his role is really a team-player role that works closely with a number of other departments. He often conducts inspections jointly with Building Inspector Tom Cinaglia and Fire Marshal Scott Lynch on issues that are not in the property maintenance realm, such as house fires, hoarding conditions, and overcrowding.
Finally, during his time here, Al has been working under Public Works Coordinator/Code Official Mike Fleming, who will be retiring in August after 10 years at Cheltenham.
Mike spends a significant portion of his time working with utility companies like PECO, Aqua, and Verizon, and other government agencies like Montgomery County, PennDOT, and SEPTA to ensure that their projects and services achieve the best results for the Township while causing the least possible disruption to residents. Mike also develops bid documents, manages the bidding and award process, and administers contracts for municipal projects.
Like Al, Mike notes, “There is never the “same old routine” in my job. Each day can bring new and interesting challenges.” Mike also finds the greatest satisfaction in being able to assist Township residents in resolving problems they are having.
Mike also credits Administrative Aide Ariel Sykes, the third member of the Public Works/Code Enforcement team, who has been taking care of various permit programs, processing vendor billing, and assisting with the issuance of citations for the past year.
Looking toward retirement, Mike reflects, “I have enjoyed my time working for Cheltenham Township and am grateful for all the professional opportunities and support provided to me throughout. While I will miss my colleagues and coworkers, I am very much looking forward to the next chapter in my life, particularly enjoying considerable leisure time with my wife.”
The Cheltenham Township family wishes you all the best, Mike!