County to add new full-time inspector

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Contractors needing inspections by the Putnam County Building Department should soon find the process more efficient.

On Tuesday, the Putnam County Council gave Putnam County Plan Director Lisa Zeiner the go-ahead to hire a full-time building inspector.

While the move was the subject of some discussion, it passed 6-0 with little resistance.

Besides being a budgetary question, the need for a full-time inspector comes down to providing appropriate and timely service to local contractors.

“As of today (Tuesday), the soonest you can get a building inspection done is next Monday,” Zeiner explained. “So we’re almost a week out on inspections.”

Going forward, the full-time inspector will pick up the lion’s share of inspections, with the part-time inspector remaining on the payroll to get any others.

As she had done with the Putnam County Commissioners the prior week, Zeiner laid out the collections that illustrate that the position should pay for itself.

The department has collected fees for 700 inspections so far this year, as compared to 579 for all of 2020.

This translates to more than $41,000 in inspection fees from Jan. 1 through June 14, while paying the part-time inspectors a total of $13,000.

The full-time inspector, whose salary and benefits were approved during 2021 budget hearings last year, will make a salary of $38,000 with benefits expected to take the compensation into the $45,000 range.

However, when no applicants were found for the position at that salary, Zeiner proposed hiring two part-time inspectors to each work two days a week.

That plan lasted until the end of March when one of the inspectors resigned. Since then, the remaining part-time inspector has been working four days a week, more than he originally desired.

The difference in the original budget and what was approved Tuesday will actually be the part-timer’s wages. Zeiner acknowledged she will likely have to return to the Council later in the year for an additional appropriation.

However, even that should be covered based on current collections.

“There’s money there, I believe,” Zeiner said, “I just don’t know where to pull it from.”

And while the Council is often displeased with missed budget projections, the Building and Planning Department was going through a transitional period at budget time last summer.

Not only was the department operating without former director Don Hatfield, but the county had not fully implemented its new fee schedule.

Councilman Phil Gick asked if Zeiner thought she could hire someone for $38,000, given that there were no takers last year.

Zeiner said she had spoken with someone who is willing to take the position. Additionally, the part-time inspector has agreed to continue working four days a week until the full-time inspector is trained.

Afterward, Zeiner said, he will not mind returning to the two-day schedule.

“He’s ready to go back to two days a week,” she said.

Councilman Keith Berry made the motion for approval, which was seconded by Jay Alcorn.

Danny Wallace, Larry Parker, Stephanie Campbell and Gick joined them in the affirmative vote.

Also present for Tuesday’s meeting were County Council Attorney Trudy Selvia and Deputy Auditor Evelyn Williams.

The next meeting of the Putnam County Council is set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20.

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