After cutting staff when construction dropped off during the recession, Wake County’s planning, development and inspections department now has enough work to require some rebuilding of its staff.
The county’s board of commissioners voted unanimously at its regular meeting on Monday to appropriate $244,265 for three full-time positions in inspections and one in plan review. The money will come from the increased revenue the county has seen in building permit fees.
Jason Horton, fiscal and policy analyst for Wake County Community Services, told commissioners that, between 2009 and 2012, the county reduced its building inspector staff by the equivalent of eight full-time positions and its plan reviewers by one.
“We’re not back to ’07-’08 levels, but we’re moving in the right direction,” commission Chairman Joe Bryan said after the meeting.
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Before the recession, the county had the equivalent of 24.5 full-time inspectors looking at buildings and plans. It now has 15.5.
Horton told commissioners that the department likes to keep its building inspectors working at a steady pace of about 10 to 14 inspections a day, with a turnaround time of three days for residential inspections and five days for commercial. This year, as construction has picked up, inspectors have worked overtime to keep up, doing as many as 18 or 19 inspections in a day, so that consumers’ wait times don’t increase.
Horton’s assertion that the workload has increased is borne out in numbers reported last week by the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, which indicated new single-family building permits were up 30 percent through the first nine months of the year compared to 2012.
Wake County staff performs building inspections for unincorporated areas and for the municipalities of Knightdale, Rolesville, Wendell and Zebulon.
Horton told commissioners the county might need to hire even more inspectors later, but would begin with four positions to determine whether the increased workload is the result of sustained growth or pent-up demand.
Commissioner Phil Matthews is optimistic.
“I really anticipate growth to continue,” Matthews said. “And that’s good for the county.”