Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2001

City council considers hiring full-time building inspector

Franiuk, Graveman hold differing views on proposal

October 10, 2001

Mayor John Franiuk and City Councilwoman Kathy Graveman are at odds over whether the city should hire a full-time building inspector.

Currently, the city contracts with Tim Pinnick, who is paid 40 percent of building permit fees to conduct inspections.

The mayor wants to hire a full-time building inspector for about $35,000. Franiuk said he believes that inspector also could enforce the city's recently stepped-up building safety codes. And that person could help with reviews of planning documents.

He said he consistently hears from builders, who are unhappy that the city's building inspector is not available more.

"We need to provide a full-time building inspector for the builders in our community," he said. "That's what we do nowadays: We build homes. That's the service that needs to be improved."

However, at Monday night's city council meeting, Graveman told council members that the matter needs further study. To that end, she provided the council with a brief report she had completed. In that report, she advocates hiring an employee for a higher salary who would wear many hats.

She said she believes a civil engineer, hired for $60,000, could replace the city planner and building inspector and handle some engineering projects currently done by BG Consultants, a Lawrence firm that handles the city's engineering needs.

"I think a town our size needs to consider consolidation of jobs, if that is at all possible," she said.

She said it's possible the city could save between $30,000 and $50,000 annually under her plan.

Graveman based her idea on conversations she had with the chair of the University of Kansas civil engineering department, a head-hunting firm in Kansas City and city engineers for De Soto and Harrisonville, Mo.

She suggested the council defer the matter and study the issue further. She also encouraged council members to seek information on their own.

Franiuk said he doesn't believe a civil engineer would handle the myriad projects he envisions. And he thinks it's possible other issues are at play in this instance.

"I think a lot of people in town have made an assumption that our engineers are ripping us off or sticking us for more money than necessary," Franiuk said.

While Franiuk says BG Consultants is an award-winning firm, he said it's possible the city should review its rates in comparison with other firms.

While several members of the audience on Monday supported forming a citizen committee to review the matter, Franiuk said on Tuesday that he plans to ask council members to approve a full-time building inspector.

"I'm going to put it back on the agenda to hire an inspector," he said. "That's what we need."

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