Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Concern over city's plan to eliminate plumbling inspector

At an otherwise fairly uneventful city council meeting on Tuesday night, a handful of local plumbers rose to express their concerns about the city's plan to eliminate the position of plumbing inspector as per the proposed 2009 budget.

Without a dedicated full-time city employee, contractors will tend to care only about the bottom line, said Mike Mull from Holtwood.

Mull and others expressed concern that safety and quality standards will suffer as a result.

In response, Randy Patterson, the city's Director of Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization said that the decision to eliminate the plumbing inspector was not an easy one and was forced by budgetary considerations, but that the permitting process is not changing and that there will be a dedicated contractor who is fully accountable to the city.

Patterson also pointed out that the city currently has only one plumbing inspector and that he is stretched thin, whereas a contractor will have many personnel.

Patterson estimated that the elimination of the plimber position along with an electrician position and the change to using contractors instead will save the city as much as $140,000 per year in salary and benefit payments.

In his remarks to city council on Tuesday, Mayor Gray announced that the city has received two state grants totaling $225,000 towards the cost of improvements at Brandon and Sixth Ward parks, and that the city will now have a "Public Art Manager," made possible by funding from the Lancaster Community Foundation.

In other business on Tuesday, city council officially had its first reading on increasing city property taxes from 9.18 to 9.64 mills for 2009. That increase, along with the proposed 2009 budget will be on the table for a vote at city council's next meeting on December 16.