Earlier this month we reported on Tom Wargo, zoning and codes enforcement officer for the Borough of Fountain Hill, discovering more than 700 unaccounted for rental properties in the borough.
As it turns out, Wargo and Fountain Hill Borough Council may have found a solution to help prevent similar oversights in the future.
Borough Council voted in favor of purchasing new municipal information management software at its Feb. 19 meeting. The software, council heard, will greatly help Wargo keep track of all information related to the borough’s properties.
The application council agreed to purchase is called CMIS, and it is developed by Montgomery County-based mapping company CarriganGeo.
According to the manufacturer, the software will revolutionize the way Fountain Hill organizes, stores and manages property information.
Borough employees will be able to search Fountain Hill addresses in the application and immediately see up-to-date information about individual properties, such as owner details, permits, violations and zoning classifications.
The borough currently keeps track of much of its property information in unorganized and outdated filing cabinets, Wargo said.
“It has taken me three months just to organize the information we do have,” he noted.
One discovery Wargo has made since taking over as the borough’s zoning and codes enforcement officer is that Fountain Hill had not been collecting a $50 license fee from each of its rental units. The fee is mandated by an ordinance enacted in January 2000.
The new software will be instrumental in collecting the rental license fee moving forward, as the borough will be able to use it to track which property owners are current with their payments and which are in arrears.
The software will also help the borough keep track of rental unit inspections, which are to be conducted on units every other year. This year, 2020, is an inspection year, so the software will be used to record completed inspections as they are performed.
Wargo will be able to add information, such as photos of properties, directly to the app from the field. Other information like emails from residents and comments made at municipal meetings can also be added to a property’s profile.
Fountain Hill will purchase the software for $19,600 and pay an annual user fee of $2,400.
While Mayor Carolee Gifford expressed concern over its price, council largely agreed that the software’s capabilities outweigh its cost; an opinion that was echoed by residents at the meeting.
Wargo said the discovery of more than 700 additional rental units made it clear to him that the borough would either need to purchase tracking software or hire additional staff to help him manage the borough’s properties, which would have been more costly.
“We are going to save money right from the get-go just in manpower alone,” he said.
Wargo told council he has used similar software for the past 14 years, and that it can cost as much as $250,000.
In the future, the borough will have the ability to add modules to the software, to help it track sewage, public works information and more.
The base model will immediately help not only Wargo, but also the borough’s zoning and planning committees, the borough manager and the tax collector.