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Price officials wrestle with city building issue

Sun Advocate publisher

Price city building inspection came under fire last week as the council discussed downsizing the department.

The officials felt that the city's building inspection department is underutilized due to a lack of work. The issue surfaced during the city budget discussions and the council conducted a hearing last Wednesday to introduce a proposal to trim $63,000 from the department to the general public.

Francis Duzenack is supervisor of the city's building inspection department. The council recommended eliminating a second inspector position because of the apparent lack of work.

Bob Bennett, the other inspector, was hired about five or six years ago as the city geared up for anticipated growth.

Statistics indicate that there has been little or no growth within Price's boundaries and, between the two inspectors, an average of only four permits are completed daily. City officials pointed out that the state building inspectors complete an average of 10 permits daily.

Council members Jeanne McEvoy, Betty Wheeler and Don Reaveley argued that Bennett knows the city, is well trained and Price has a major investment in the second inspector position.

On the other side of the issue, council members Richard Tatton and Stephen Denison argued that the department is underutilized and, during tough economic times, the city cannot carry additional weight.

McEvoy moved that additional city revenues be put into the department to retain the second inspector position. She also proposed that the council focus on balancing the city's budget by cutting other areas.

A large group of local contractors are opposed cutting the position, pointed out Mayor Joe Piccolo.

The mayor received approximately 20 letters opposing the action and two contractors spoke out Wednesday night in support of retaining the second building inspector.

During the public comment period, local contractor Angelo Kiahtipes spoke against cutting the position and stated that the building department is excellent by all standards.

Why would the council "deliberately cripple the department?" asked the contractor. Kiahtipes encouraged the council to refrain from eliminating the position because the action would hinder growth and place a hardship on the building department.

General contractor Robert Strong echoed Kiahtipes' comments and said he would hate to see the job go away.

"It would open us up to substandard work," noted Strong. He said the department is providing a safe building environment and he would hate to see the city bring in low-dollar contractors to get work done

"This will happen if we cut a person. In the long run, we will loose - not save," stated Strong.

The council decided the matter with a three to two vote to retain Bennett's position and increase the workload in the department.

Funding the second inspector position was reinstated, with the understanding that additional revenue would come from other sources than projected growth.

The mayor met with the department Monday and outlined plans to make Duzenack the part-time city fire marshal as well as the facilities appraiser.

In the capacity, Duzenack will evaluate the capital needs of all city buildings on an annual basis. Price officials will evaluate the city's building department on a continuous basis.

In addition to the increased workload, the city will adjust rates and recommend minor increases. One expected new rate is a city inspection fee.

The mayor and council balanced Price city's budget by eliminating travel and training expenses while making cuts in other areas.

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