To keep pace with a building boom that’s still booming across Charlotte and its surroundings, Mecklenburg County is seeking to hire more than two dozen new building inspectors and support positions.
The 26-position increase will help the county inspect new buildings and, especially the big apartment projects that are popping up in record numbers.
“To maintain the response time that’s acceptable, you have to add more inspectors,” said Land Use and Environmental Services Agency Director Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi, who said he hopes to hire the new workers and have them in place by July 1 to keep up with what’s expected to be a heavy workload for the rest of 2017.
He presented the case for the new inspector positions on Tuesday night to Mecklenburg County commissioners, who are expected to vote on the plan at their meeting next Tuesday.
“This is a proactive step,” said Gujjarlapudi. “We don’t see it slowing down for the next year or so.”
A cost estimate for the proposal wasn’t available, but Gujjarlapudi said the county could pay for the new positions without raising inspection fees, based on the higher workload. LUESA would hire 10 people for the mega/multifamily team (which inspects new apartments under construction), 10 people for the inspections team, five people for the Inspector I program and one administrative position.
Gujjarlapudi said the new positions will help inspectors move toward a more unified team model, in which the same group of inspectors takes a project from the planning stages to completion. That’s a shift from the model in which plans are reviewed by different personnel from on-site inspectors. Gujjarlapudi said inspectors have also been instructed to spend more time with builders to explain the code and how to comply, which takes more time and necessitates more employees.
“You can’t just fail them and walk away,” he said.
The number of employees in the LUESA office has fluctuated with demand in the building industry. In July 2008, the agency employed 242 workers.
By May 2010, however, the recession had crushed demand as construction and new projects ground to a halt, and the office was down to 130 employees. The number of permits issued fell by a third in that time, from 96,000 to 66,000, while the number of inspections dropped from 370,000 to 160,000.
As building and construction came back, the number of employees gradually rose, to 215 in 2014 and 245 by January 2015. LUESA’s request for more employees would take the department to 270 total.