SHEFFIELD LAKE — City Council is mulling whether to sign another contract for building department services with the private company that operates the building department.
The city signed a two-year lease with Safebuilt Ohio LLC in April 2015 following the resignation of building inspector Jon Wiblin. The company also provides building department services for the cities of Bay Village and Olmsted Falls.
None of the five City Council members present at a recent work session expressed any reservations about signing a new contract. The current contract, which expires at the end of May, stipulates that Safebuilt receives 85 percent of all permit fee revenue.
If the city officials aren’t going to renew the contract, they have 30 days to notify Safebuilt, meaning they have until the end of April to decide whether the building department will remain privatized.
Council members largely said they feel Safebuilt is doing a good job, with the exception of some occasional problems that any building department might encounter. Councilman Steve Kovach said the city isn’t receiving nearly as many complaints from contractors or residents about services as were received when the building department was operated by the city.
Council President Rick Rosso said it’s probably a good idea to keep Safebuilt on the “sheer fact” that the city no longer has to pay for the salaries, health insurance or vehicle costs associated with a building department.
Mayor Dennis Bring said the only problem he has encountered with the department is Safebuilt not catching enough people doing work without building permits.
Bring said he has personally found more than 40 different jobs being done in the city without a permit just by driving around and turning people in to Safebuilt.
Safebuilt employees have no problem quickly following up with violators when notified, Bring said, but he’d like to see them doing more legwork. Bring said he can’t understand how he can catch two to three people a week doing work without permits and Safebuilt can’t catch anyone.
“I don’t think I should be the one running around policing that stuff,” Bring said. “The other thing is the amount of time they spend in the city. Those are the two issues.”
Rosso said he’d like to see a detailed explanation of how much the city has saved through privatization of the department, and Bring said he would get back to members with the details.
Potential savings were one of the main motivations Bring cited when he pushed for a privatization of the building department. City officials in Bay Village previously have said that more than $270,000 was cut from the budget by utilizing the company.
Sheffield Lake ran deficits in the department from 2007 to 2011 as a result of paying workers’ compensation claims, unemployment for former employees and salaries of temporary inspectors. From 2012 to 2014 there were small surpluses in the department ranging from $3,511 to $9,734.
City Council also is considering whether to adjust building department fees, with some members saying they’d like to see adjustments made which could include increasing commercial permit fees.