Building’s back in Naperville. The people who perform the inspections that keep the process moving say they need help keeping up, now that the construction industry has picked up the hammers the recession had set down.
Nearly 6,700 building permits were issued during fiscal 2014, development team leader John Rutkowski reported to City Manager Doug Krieger. That number, he said, outpaces by about 200 the tally for fiscal 2007, before the recession began.
And that’s problematic, because the city’s Development Services Team is functioning with the equivalent of two fewer full-time inspectors and 1.5 fewer full-time staff conducting plan reviews than it had in fiscal 2006. That was a couple of years before the economic downturn triggered a series of staff cuts that reduced the city work force by 14 percent.
The resurrected building activity shows no sign of letting up soon.
“Permit issuance in FY15 is up 7 percent over last year, which is on pace to equal the number of permits issued in FY06,” Rutkowski said in his memo.
The city has adapted to the lighter staff head count by using independent inspectors as needed, he noted, but it’s an imperfect remedy.
“Although temporary staffing has offered some relief, we continue to witness longer than usual wait times for inspection services and receive complaints from the development community,” Rutkowski said. “Temporary staffing has its limitations since the inspectors employed are part-time and often have other competing employment opportunities.
“Moreover, as the economy continues to improve, we have seen that less qualified people are available to help on a temporary basis. As a result, we have seen gaps in our ability to serve our customers well during the 2014 construction season.”
When work begins later this year on departmental spending for fiscal 2016, the team plans to request one to two more staff inspectors.
“It should be noted that the request would not place any burden on the general taxpayer since preliminary revenue projections for permit issuance suggests that the DST will collect approximately $200,000 in excess of its expenditures in FY15 (which will cover the cost of two new employees),” he said.