SOUTH RUSSELL — Some disagreement has surfaced among village officials over comments made recently about the fate of the Building Department.
While some say the village department better serves residents, others counter that the local building department has lost as much as $100,000 annually over the last nine years.
Comments in the discussion at the Oct. 28 Village Council meeting concerning the future of the building department are being contested by those who want to close the village department and transfer duties to the Geauga County building department.
In the meeting, council members talked about a possible Geauga County satellite building office in the village; however, that has to be approved by the Geauga County Commissioners. Representatives of the village were scheduled to talk with the county commissioners at their meeting this week.
Mayor Bill Koons has supported keeping the building department, saying the village is able to give better services to residents.
Councilman Mark Porter said there is no hurry to close the village building department. First, South Russell officials need to talk to county commissioners about setting up a satellite office in the village.
Councilman Ray Schloss, however, was one of those taking issue with the comments that supported keeping the village building department. He said the village has a copy of an audited financial statement for the village building department and what has been going on. “It’s not true,” he said of the mayor’s comments in favor of keeping the building department.
As chairman of the building department, Mr. Schloss said he has a financial statement for the building department for the past nine years. “And each year, the building department ran at a loss,” he said. “We are not making money. We are losing money.”
It is operating at a loss of $1.13 million for over the past nine years, Mr. Schloss said. The money taken in by the village from fees, licenses, permits and fines averaged $40,000 for each of the last nine years.
He said his information is based on the village’s fiscal officer’s review and was checked by the state of Ohio in a recent audit.
“There is no way this department is making any money. It is fiscally irresponsible to allow this to move on,” Mr. Schloss said of the village continuing to operate the building department. “It is best for Geauga County to take over the building department. The mayor is totally wrong in regard to the statement that we are making money in the building department,” he said.
There is no “building boom” going on in the village, Mr. Schloss said. The village is basically built out. There are very few homes being built and it’s all remodeling that is being done, he said. It is all work that can be overseen by the county as is the case in every other township and village in Geauga, he said.
Mr. Schloss said it was put forth at the meeting that requests for inspections in the village that come in by 9 a.m. are responded to that day. “I find that statement to be false. It is known that happens in the county but not in the village.”
Councilman Mark Porter had said at the meeting he did not know if the county could guarantee same-day service, while the village can do so.
Councilman Mike Carroll is in favor of going with the county building department. He said the information set forth by some at the Oct. 28 meeting concerning the building department is not accurate. “The building department is costing the village about $100,000 a year until this past year when the model was changed to a subcontracted building inspector. This last year was less because there is no full-time building inspector, and it was not fully staffed the entire year,” he said.
“The mayor presented inaccurate information,” Mr. Carroll said. “It is still going to cost a minimum of $15,000 to $20,000 to keep the current building department model in which we contract for a building inspector.”
The village can provide the inspections if part-time Building Inspector Dave Hocevar is in the office, but when he is working for another community he can’t be there, Mr. Carroll said. The county, however, has multiple inspectors to do same-day inspections.
He said the village has considered a part-time building department and has been looking for a part-time building inspector and is unable to find anyone with the necessary qualifications to fill the position.
The level of service is less now, under the current arrangement, than if the village were to go with the county building and plumbing inspections, Mr. Carroll said. There would be no cost to going to the county because county residents pay taxes for that service, he added.
The mayor said the county does not inspect hot water heaters and footers, but they do, Mr. Carroll said.
He said the county building department does inspect footers and the county health department does hot water tanks and septic systems. The county does not inspect siding replacement, replacement windows and reroofing; however, most communities with building inspectors do not provide those inspections. South Russell does provide it, but there is no code requirement for those inspections, Mr. Carroll said.
“My point is the county could take over and do our inspections and would provide a better level of inspection because they can do the same-day inspections,” he said.