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Preston Mum on JCOW Okays 4.19.2006

By Rick Racela

WILDWOOD – Michael Preston, former construction official of the Joint Construction Office of the Wildwoods (JCOW), reportedly approved the approximately 500 condominiums the state says were built in violation of fire code requirements.
But last week, he had no comment to Herald inquiries.
Preston, who resides in North Wildwood, was the construction official in Wildwood for seven years and six more doing the same in Wildwood Crest.
He said that he started as JCOW’s construction official in 1993 and was at the position until he retired in August 2005.
In February of this year, Five Mile Island property owners were identified as being in violation after an audit by the state Department of Community Affairs. The notice from Preston’s successor Mario Zaccaria stated that a number of properties had been “misdesignated” and that the developer or designer treated the buildings like they were R-3, when the proper designation would have been  R-2.
R-2 properties are required to meet certain standards regarding firewall separation, fire suppression systems, and means of exit for occupants given the number of units.       
As homeowners, architects, builders and attorneys, scramble to figure out who’s to blame, the JCOW board has decided to withhold a portion of Preston’s $70,000 retirement deal until the code violations are resolved.
Initially, the board voted 5-2 on May 27 to award Preston a $40,000 bonus for his 12-years of service at JCOW. The resolution was rescinded on June 24 and then reintroduced on July 22 as a $70,000 package.
Preston will still receive $43,000 in accumulated comp, sick, and vacation time, but in light of the recent decision to withhold the retirement deal, the remaining $27,000 will be suspended.
Contact Huggins at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or lhuggins@cmcherald.com

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