Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Where Have All The Inspectors Gone?

One of the most challenging problems following Hurricane Wilma has been the time needed to rebuild. As we all know, when we want to do some work on our property, a new roof, porch, driveway, etc., it requires a permit to be issued by the city. For this, inspections are also required at several points in the construction work.

So why does it take so long to get the permits and the inspections? It is because of three factors:

1) The extraordinary amount of number of permits and inspections required because of the hurricane damage and rebuilding;
2) The lack of an insufficient number of people that can properly issue permits and provide inspections; and,
3) The failure of the property owner to present proper papers to be approved for the work, or proper construction to pass inspections.

Answers are: the number of permits and inspections required is beyond the city to prevent.; the work is there and we must find a way to handle it; and, finally, which is in the control of the property owner and is avoidable, is to simply hiring qualified contractors, and following instructions on the procedures given.

The problem that is in the city's control is problem #2, which has been the stumbling block for all governments. The lack of qualified personnel. While the first step in construction is to obtain a permit was a significant problem (Lauderhill has finally caught up on the backlog), the main problem is that the city has insufficient inspectors to complete the work. This problem, which the city is working to rectify, exists throughout the county, and no city, or the county itself, has been able to avoid. This is because there is a lack of certified inspectors available for the work needed. To help solve this problem, the city has finally been able to contract with an independent firm to provide additional inspectors for the city during this period.

But why would there be a lack of these inspectors for the city to hire? It is because the certification is conducted by the county's Board of Rules and Appeals, and they are historically very slow at certifying these inspectors.

For a government to fully inspect construction, the city must have Chief Inspectors in several areas: including Plumbing, Electrical, Structural, an overall Chief Building Inspector, and others. It has been a struggle over the years to obtain and keep these qualified Chief Inspectors. Governments and private contractors often hire away from other governments these inspectors, and generally there is a serious shortage of inspectors to draw from in the first place. Salaries and working conditions generally are the cause of inspectors being hired away to other employers.

This ongoing problem is not going away any time soon. Until such time that the Board of Rules and Appeals decides to work towards making sure there are an adequate number of qualified inspectors available, this problem will exist. To date, no such initiative has been forthcoming.

Lauderhill will do what it can to help get us through this time. It would greatly help if your contractor properly follows all instructions and completes the work correctly. If your contractor is blaming the city for the delays, you may wish to reconfirm this directly with the city. It has been known that not all problems stem from the city, and property owners will readily accept the explanation from their contractor that the problem comes from City Hall, when that is not always true. If a property owner is having a particular hardship, it is possible we can try and expedite the situation, and at least get to the cause of the problem. Please contact one of your elected officials, including the Mayor, if such assistance is needed.

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