Town might add fourth inspector

sgilman@newsobserver.comMarch 24, 2014 

This graph shows growth in revenue from building inspections in Clayton.

TOWN OF CLAYTON

Manifestations of Clayton’s growth often roar: the ongoing of expansion of the Riverwood community, the figurative buttons popping off the shelves of Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library, the hungry desire of Sheetz to open yet another convenience store in Clayton.

Other clues whisper.

One such quiet clue is the request from Town Manager Steve Biggs to restore a building-inspector position cut from the town’s payroll during the recession. The request was short, almost hidden like a gem in Monday night’s double-feature Town Council meeting, which lasted for more than four hours. But it’s a detail that reveals dramatic growth in the town.

“We feel if we do not restore the position, we will not be able to continue to provide the level of service our customers expect,” Biggs told the Town Council.

Clayton currently has three building inspectors, also known as code-enforcement officials. In the early 2000s, the town had five inspectors, including one chief. In June of 2010, as building slowed to a trickle, the town eliminated two of those positions.

For a few years, Clayton got along just fine with just three people out in the field ensuring that construction complies with North Carolina building codes. But demand for building permits has been increasing in Clayton.

“It’s been trending upward every year since 2010,” Biggs said.

Revenue from building permits has increased so much that Biggs says the town will have no trouble raising the $63,000 it would need annually to pay a fourth inspector.

“We feel very comfortable that if we restore this position, we will be able to pay for the position with the surplus of revenue,” Biggs said. “We feel very optimistic in the continued upward trend of development activity.”

An additional building inspector would not bring in more revenue, Biggs said, but would help meet the demand for service. After a long lull, revenue from building inspections is growing. In 2006, before the recession, the town garnered $850,000 from inspection fees. That dropped to as low as $269,000 in 2010 but has soared back to $649,000 in fiscal 2013-14.

Those revenue numbers represent hundreds of inspections, from $500 for a new single-home dwelling to $6,230 for a $1 million commercial building. And since fees have not increased, the jump in revenue is entirely because of growth in construction, Biggs said.

Biggs said town staff had hoped to fill the inspector position by April 1 but is not on track after only advertising the position in trade journals: “This time we are going to use a broader approach and see what we can reach,” he said.

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