November 26, 2010
City code enforcement head steps up to new job
William Knickerbocker serving in combined role as assistant fire chief, codes chief
City Fire Capt. William Knickerbocker is back on familiar ground.
The Cortland firefighter of 17 years and the city’s acting director of code enforcement was sworn in Wednesday as the department’s new assistant fire chief.
Knickerbocker, 50, says he has to settle back into the feeling of holding more of a command position.
He got his start in 1980 working with the South Otselic Fire Department, where he spent 10 years as chief.
Knickerbocker said becoming an assistant Cortland fire chief is a welcome new chapter in his career.
“A real good understanding of building construction is important for firefighter safety, and being a code officer you know what type of fire protection systems are in place — it aids the decision making,” Knickerbocker said. “And then commandwise, knowing how a building is constructed for collapse conditions is real important.”
Fire Chief Charles Glover held the same role in the department before taking over as chief from Dennis Baron, who retired in March.
“The position is such that you require more of a manager and an officer,” Glover said of Knickerbocker’s new role. “His extensive code enforcement background, both in this department and before, makes him the obvious choice.”
Contract negotiations between the city and the fire department combined the roles of director of code enforcement, a job that requires appointment from the mayor and the Common Council’s approval, with the position of assistant fire chief, which is appointed by the department’s fire chief.
Knickerbocker will continue his duties as the city’s acting director of code enforcement. He will take a state assistant fire chief’s exam next year to make his new role official.
Mayor Susan Feiszli will request the council’s approval to appoint Knickerbocker as director of code enforcement at the Dec. 7 council meeting.
“This has been a long time coming,” Feiszli said. “I’m pleased and honored to appoint him. He has done an excellent job.”
Working in a college town makes code enforcement a busier job, Knickerbocker said.
Code officers guide city government on local code laws and make regular inspections of properties to make sure they meet the safety requirements.
As code enforcement officer, Knickerbocker reviewed building plans for the Holiday Inn Express on the Riverside Plaza and the Hampton Inn on River Street.
Working on projects like those and dealing with other quality-of-life issues are part of what Knickerbocker says make code enforcement a fulfilling job.
“Trying to bring safe change to a neighborhood or building and seeing something happen is a good thing,” he said. “With the more intricate things, I know where to go for the exact language and a lot of times, that’s where it falls.”
He said other times code officers answer complaints that range from neighbors feuding over a tree limb hanging over another’s property to disputes between a tenant and a landlord over noise or other rental issues.
“Most of the time you get a phone call, you look into it, you call the landlord, and it’s sometimes not always our business,” Knickerbocker said.
Knickerbocker lives in Solon with his wife, Shelley. His 21-year-old daughter Megan attends the University of Albany. He also has three sons: Aiden, 12; Caleb, 7; and Nolan, 6.
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