Three months ago, Prince George's County officials were seldom welcome in the Northview Estates development in Bowie. Residents suspected that apathy on the part of the county had allowed their new Levitt homes to be occupieddespite hundreds of building code violations.
Three months ago, Sister Natalie Scibilia decided that it might be a good experience to spend the summer working for the county licensing department.
Last week, the department's image problems were virtually over. After working days and nights for three months with Northview homeowners, Scribilia had, as one official put it, "almost single-handedlydone a job that no one thought could be done."
Scibilia, working as a special summer employe, was in charge of making inspection appointments and handling complaints from Nortview residents, hundreds of whom complained of major structural faults in their houses after moving in during 1977.
"Basically, she was so wrapped up and attached to her job, and she was so patient and graceful with these people, that it turned things around for us," said Deputy Chief Building Inspector Arthur W. Hesse. "She improved the relationship between the county and the residents 100 percent."
Now, as workers from Levitt's parent company, the Starrett Corporation, finally begin to repair the sagging roofs, cracked driveways, and leaky moldings in Northview homes, Scibilia has left.
She finished work last week, and will now return to Florence, S.C., where she works as a school-teacher.
"I'm not sure she's replaceable," said Arthur Brown, chief of county building inspectors. "Dozens of people have called to thank us for her. She's one of those persons who just exudes friendliness and confidence."
"I listened to them, some of them were very angry," Scibilia said of the Northview residents. ". . . I knew that something should be done for these people."
A member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an order based in Ilchester, Md., Scibilia became interested in working in local government last year through a friend who works for the county.
"I didn't want to teach summer school, and I thought I would do something different," Scibilia said. "So I decided to come here to work."
During the summer, Scibilia estimated, she contacted about 70 Northview families who had problems with their houses. She would make appointments to have their homes inspected, and keep them apprised of the county's efforts to have the faults corrected.
It was a frustating job. In all, Scibilia said, only about three homes she worked on were fixed during the summer. Residents became increasingly angry as Levitt and Sons, Inc., failed to meet county deadlines to correct building code violations.
Often,Scibilia took her work home at night. She spent hours in the evening calling residents she was unable to reach during business hours.
"It was just amazing," Brown said. "These people couldn't believe that a county worker cared enough to work in nights as well as days on their problems."
"I would just listen to them," Scibilia said. "And I would make another appointment for a reinspection."
"It may be quite a relief to return to teaching," Scibilia said. "At least I'm in command down there and can make things get done.
"But it's been a good experience," Scibilia said. "I think I realize more now how important it is to be particular in one's work. Also, how important it isto be patient."