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DeKalb City Council considers outsourcing as aldermen debate department’s future

DeKALB – The city of DeKalb will consider a stopgap measure for building services as officials debate the future of the city's building department.

During their meeting tonight, DeKalb aldermen could enter into a temporary contract with SAFEbuilt Illinois to provide permit and building inspection services for the city while the city employees who perform those duties are on administrative leave.

Late last month, city leaders placed its building supervisor and two building inspectors on administrative leave as part of a review of the building department that could end in services being permanently outsourced.

Under the proposed contract, the city would pay SAFEbuilt 75 percent of plumbing and building permit fees as well as a one-time $1,000 payment for new permitting software. According to the contract, a SAFEbuilt inspector would hold office hours at DeKalb City Hall for two hours a day, three days a week.

Based on projected permitting activity for next fiscal year, city officials expect the contract will cost the city $202,000, which is 56 percent less than the $460,000 to maintain the building department employees and outside electric inspections, according to a memo from city staff.

Public Works Director TJ Moore said he believed building department customers would see improved service, noting the contract places specific timelines on various types of projects.

“Right now, they have the ability to scale based on demand,” Moore said. “[SAFEbuilt] can provide people depending on how it ebbs and flows.”

SAFEbuilt proposed a one year contract, although the contract can be terminated with 30 days notice. Officials would keep the contract in place until a final decision was made about outsourcing.

Steve Irving, the president of DeKalb-based Irving Construction, said his main concern with any changes in the building department are time related.

“My biggest concern is getting timely inspections, regardless of who's doing it,” Irving said. “We got tremendous service from the building department. I'm concerned we won't get that if they sub it out.”

Ken Andersen, the executive officer of the DeKalb County Building and Development Association, said he's not sure how outsourcing would affect his organization's members, but he remained optimistic.

“I think it will all work out,” Andersen said. “As long as they work with us, we will work with them.”

If the contract is approved, aldermen also will consider putting a hold on non-permit based inspections such as hotel inspections and rooming house inspections, as well as property maintenance inspections outside of the Crime-Free Housing Department.

If you go

What: DeKalb City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: DeKalb City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St.

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