The city of Beaufort might hire someone to enforce its nuisance codes and act as a fire marshal, reversing a trend toward outsourcing such jobs.
City Council will discuss the proposal at its work session at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, which will be followed by a voting meeting and executive session to discuss personnel. The new position is one of several options staff and council members will mull before the city's contract with Safe-Built expires Sunday.
The company has enforced city codes since 2010. Safe-Built also handles the city's building codes and permits, and its contract can be extended on an annual or monthly basis.
City manager Scott Dadson said he would prefer the joint position.
Responsibility for codes enforcement has been shuttled through departments and contractors since the fall of 2002, when a full-time code-enforcement officer moved from the fire department to the city planning department, according to city planner Libby Anderson.
That move was designed to get zoning and codes departments working more closely together.
The position changed again in 2009 because of budget constraints, Anderson said. Codes enforcement was split between fire marshal Dan Byrne and Anderson.
The city contracted for codes enforcement with the company now called Safe-Built in August 2010. Byrne had resigned as fire marshal a few days before, citing concern over a lack of focus on public education and fire-prevention programs in his resignation letter.
The city hasn't had a fire marshal since then, although Chief Sammy Negron has requested the position be restored in the budget for the past two years.
"The cost of adding this positions ... could not be justified on its own in comparison with the overall needs of the city," according to a staff report.
"There was a city-wide reduction in middle management that came about because the city was looking ahead and preparing itself for the difficult economic situation that everyone was facing at that time," Negron said.
The need for a fire marshal never went away, he said, and although shift-level firefighters now perform safety and education duties, a fire marshal is needed "for a constant, supervisory person" to manage the office.
Four options for codes enforcement were presented to City Council in July:
- Continue contracting with Safe-Built, but reduce weekly hours from 24 to 18. Cost: $55,000 to $60,000.
- Hire a full-time code-enforcement employee with benefits, with potential for reducing hours to increase savings. Cost: $55,000 to $60,000.
- Hire one or two part-time employees at $18 per hour and no benefits for 18 to 24 hours per week. Cost: Less than $25,000 per employee.
- Hire a joint position for codes enforcement and fire marshal by promoting within the fire department and hiring a replacement, entry-level firefighter. Cost: $55,000 to $60,000.
The joint position would involve maneuvering personnel and finances, as codes enforcement is now included in the planning department's budget.
City staffers report that contracting with Safe-Built for both codes and building inspections has saved money.
The cost for codes enforcement has decreased every year since fiscal year 2012, the city's first full year with Safe-Built. Services cost $93,600 that year and decreased to $80,025 and $69,500 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, according to city staff.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.