Marion County commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to spend more than $1.3 million to beef up their force of building inspectors.
Building and Safety Director Michael Savage made an impassioned plea for the additional staff and equipment after two residents had spoken out against the additions. He said he had recently lost six inspectors/plan examiners to the private sector, which was willing to pay them an additionally $20,000 annually.
“That’s all it was about,” he said. “They paid them a higher dollar.”
Savage told the commissioners that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, building permits in Marion County actually have increased from an average of 530 a week in February to more than 630 per week in July and August. He added that the national average of inspections per inspector is 20-25 per day, but his inspectors are handling 32-40 per day, with some taking care of more than 70 on a given day.
“This has a negative impact on a few areas for Building Safety as well as citizens,” he said, adding that his inspectors are getting “burned out” with the workload. “They’ve been coming to me asking when they can get some relief.”
Savage said those kinds of workloads can affect customer service, which he said can’t happen. He also pointed out that the department’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating could be negatively impacted if inspection levels are above the national average.
“Too many inspections per inspector will result in a lower score, which causes citizen’s homeowner’s insurance to rise,” he said.
To solve the issues, Savage said he plans to hire five full-time and five temporary inspectors as the workload justifies it.
“This will allow the department to continue to reach its goals, allow the inspectors to conduct more thorough inspections and to ensure that all life safety issues are covered,” he wrote in a memo to commissioners. “The addition of these positions will alleviate the inspector-to-inspection workload ratio, bringing the daily workload down to the national average.”
Savage said the additional personnel also will allow his department to consistently provide next-day inspections – something he deemed necessary for “exceptional customer service.”
In an effort to compete with the private sector, Savage said he plans to raise the salaries of inspectors $5,000 annually. He also plans to increase the annual salary for the division manager for plans examiners and inspectors to $80,000 once that person obtains an additional three licenses and a Building Code Administrators license.
Savage said he also needs to purchase vehicles for the inspectors and requested a bid exemption for “off the lot inventory.” He said major delays in receiving vehicles that are ordered are taking place because many automotive plants have been shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.