'Just absolutely devastating': Easton officials shocked by building inspector's death

Town Hall in Easton, Conn. April 20, 2012.

Town Hall in Easton, Conn. April 20, 2012.

Autumn Driscoll / Autumn Driscoll

EASTON — The sudden death of longtime building inspector Anthony Ballaro left many officials in shock and caused the town to look to its neighbors to meet the demand in the building office.

First Selectman Dave Bindelglass remembers getting a phone call shortly after seeing Ballaro just before his death on May 8.

“Working with [Anthony] was great,” said Bindelglass. “The horror is that I walked out of the building with him Friday afternoon and then I got a call that he passed away.”

“That was just absolutely devastating.”

Ballaro, a long time Shelton resident, started his career as a plumber for the Local 777 before becoming a partner at Ballaro Brothers, LLC. He then took a position as a building inspector for Shelton before becoming the chief building official for Easton.

“Anthony had a great sense of humor and he was a pleasure to work with. He entertained everyone at town hall. He was just a great person,” Bindelglass added.

As the chief building official, Ballaro was in charge of many important tasks. The duties of a building inspector include inspecting additions to houses, signing initial permits and the certificates of occupancy, as well as inspecting structures after storm damage.

The building inspector responsibilities also include issuing violation notices if fire safety conditions are not being properly met or a building is suffering from major structural damage, examining a building’s electrical wiring systems, electrical motors, generating equipment and lighting systems for faulty wiring elements as well as checking a building’s emergency fire exits, smoke control systems, fire sprinkler systems and fire protection equipment for overall quality.

Easton is entering one of the busiest times of the year for inspections, however, several building inspectors from neighboring towns like Westport have decided to pitch in and help during this hard time. Fairfield’s retired building official, Tom Conley, has also been lending his services to Easton on a part-time basis.

“We knew each other as part of district 8 which is Fairfield County’s building officials,” said Peter Howard, Easton resident and Westport building official.

He said he’s met and spoken with Ballaro a few times, but has been regularly filling-in for Easton for many years if people were out sick or on vacation.

“Since this happened so suddenly, a couple guys called volunteered right away and did a few inspections,” Howard added. “I live in the town and I’m familiar with the town. I met with the first selectman and decided that I would fill in and move toward the process of finding someone new.”

Since most towns only have one full-time building inspector, Bindelglass said several other building inspectors have previously pitched in to help before for vacation or illness. In this difficult time, the close-knit group has been tremendously helpful.

“With the suddenness of this, they have been awesome. They have been fielding calls on their cell phones and they have been showing up almost at a moment’s notice when we need stuff,” Bindelglass added. “I think they have all been phenomenal.”

With just a few weeks removed from Ballaro’s funeral on May 14, Bindelglass said out of respect for the situation, he wants the dust to settle a little bit then post for the position at the end of the month.

“My goal is to make us a responsive town which is user friendly to our residents who are building or updating their homes and properties,” said Bindelglass. “I hope that there will be no hiccups while we look for a new inspector.”