A month ago, a small political bombshell dropped at 205 Claremont Ave. when Robert McLoughlin, about to be terminated as the town’s construction official, demanded his job back — saying otherwise he would tell the state about Mayor Jerry Fried had used political interference on behalf of developers around town.

McLoughlin didn’t get his job back, and he did report the town to the state. Meanwhile, the mayor and town manager Marc Dashield framed the decision to let McLoughlin go as a cost-cutting measure and told of a plan to contract with Glen Ridge to do construction inspections for Montclair.

A month later — at the busiest time of the year in the construction business — Montclair is no further toward an agreement with Glen Ridge, and the construction office is hobbling through with an interim officer, Phil Buchoo, and a part-time electrical inspector. McLoughlin, former fire chief for the town, did electrical inspections as well as running the construction office. Inspections, which are supposed to be conducted within 72 hours of a contractors’ request according to state regulations, are now taking as long as two weeks to schedule.

Someone requesting an electrical inspection this past Tuesday, June 14 would have been told that the first available date was Wednesday June 29.

“I’m aware that there are issues with scheduling inspections,” said Janice Talley, planning director for Montclair. “Are we at peak efficiency? No. [But] I haven’t received any complaints from contractors.”

“I don’t know any place where people can do it within 72 hours,” said Marc Dashield, township manager. He added that “we’ve had discussions” with Glen Ridge and “we’re still working on it.” He hopes to present a shared-services plan to the council at its next meeting, July 12.

Michael Rohal, administrator for Glen Ridge, confirmed that “We had preliminary discussions about a shared services agreement” but said no deal has been reached.

“I was sorry to see Bob McLoughlin let go,” said Montclair builder Jack Finn. “He really pulled that office together. It ran smoother. I felt that he raised the bar. He held people to a high standard.”

But Finn added, “He was not a soft and fuzzy kind of guy and he probably stepped on people’s toes.”

As for the lag in scheduling inspections, Finn said, “You learn to think ahead and plan ahead.”

Another builder, who was no fan of McLoughlin personally, acknowledged that McLoughlin “made the office run better” than previous construction officials. Even under McLoughlin’s stewardship, though, the town rarely made the 72-hour inspection scheduling deadline, he said.

Developer Cary Heller said there is “enormous backlog” in the system and speculated that scheduling delays may “cause people to go underground” and bypass the inspection process altogether.

The state is investigating McLoughlin’s charges but will not comment until the probe is complete.

McLoughlin was receiving a pension from his former fire chief position while collecting a salary as construction official.






9 replies on “What’s Going On With Montclair’s Construction Office?”

  1. Dear MONTCLAIR,

    Please consider BLOOMFIELD for shared services in this instance. We have a wonderful Building Department that handles 4,500 inspections a year.

    Annual Inspection Volume
    Residential, commercial and industrial construction
    • 2,200 building, electric, plumbing and fire inspections.
    • 3,000 property maintenance inspections.
    • 500 certificate of occupancy inspections.

    Annual Zoning Inspections
    About 1,000 – for property use, setbacks, lot coverage, etc.

    read about this GREAT BLOOMFIELD department here on page 6

  2. In the very least, if you are going to let an employee in charge a department go, you owe it to the people of Montclair to have a replacement strategy in place. It is obvious they didn’t which more than ever leads me to believe McLoughlin was tossed out over night as result of politics.Just my opinion.

  3. Maybe contractors aren’t complaining because it falls on deaf ears. I have a small project going on at my house that is taking months because of long wait times for each required inspection. I’m patient with the contractor because I know what’s not happening in the construction department. And Janice Talley can consider this a complaint.

  4. Herb, I think you are 100% correct on that assessment! IMO, no contingency plan = knee-jerk decision!

  5. It’s Mr. Dashield’s job to keep the local government running. No excuses. If he can’t manage that, it’s time for him to be replaced.

  6. When this story first came out, I was sceptical of McLoughlin’s claims. I was one of those wondering why he only waited until then to come forward over what he claimed was ongoing abuse of office.

    However, the fact that Montclair’s government was so unprepared for what was supposed to be a well considered financial choice has done a lot to change my mind. Clearly, this wasn’t “well considered” or even considered much at all.


  7. And when you see the mayor traipsing into Dick Grabowski’s office in the weeks before the move, and having Dick brag about getting McLoughlin fired, it makes you wonder even more.

  8. I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the lack of “managing” that is going on. The debt is through the roof, many surrounding towns are making major changes it reduce costs and Montclair barely tweaks things yet praises themselves for the hard work they’ve done and then raise taxes, yet again. They can get away with it because citizens are too busy working like dogs to pay their property taxes or getting their house ready to go on the market.

    The Town Council made mention of a petition at the last town council meeting. I think it was Nick who said, “there are a lot of signatures on this petition. It filled the page, maybe 30”. Why is it that CCM has a petition with about 1,000 signatures and the Town Council, except Cary, acts like there is no urgency to reduce the cost structure of the town to provide property tax relief?

  9. What could we expect from the current TC. And now we have 2 former mayors(one who’s a developer no less) who are partly responsible for the current state of our debt. Added to 2 union people I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that things will improve. Thanks to the blue waver destructiod turnout we can look forward to 4 more years of obfuscation, under the table spending, and unaccountable management.
    The only slate that promised anything like reform and accountability got tea partied by the NY Slimes malevolent reporter resident and racialized by the winning Essex machiners. McLaughlin was I conscientious guy who I’ve known for 30 years.

    what a disaster

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