Lakewood OH

Building Department privatization OK’d

By Jeff Gallatin

Bay Village

A proposal by Mayor Debbie Sutherland to privatize the city building department to help cope with a projected 2013 budget deficit of about $482,000 was approved by City Council Monday.

Council President Paul Koomar said afterward having the Colorado-based firm, SAFEbuilt, take over building department functions makes sense.

“We were impressed by their expertise and previous experience in handling these type of clients,” Koomar said. “This will go a long way toward dealing with the projected deficit.”

State law requires the city to file a balanced budget by the end of March. Council took some additional steps toward dealing with the budget issue when Councilman Dave Tadych introduced on first reading a plan to change for one year how the city income tax receipts are allocated. In it, funds that previously have been used for equipment and capital needs could be used elsewhere in 2013 to help make up the projected deficit.

Administration officials estimate the move to SAFEbuilt would save the city about $250,000 in 2013, with $450,000 in annualized savings.

“We’re in a position where we can’t be cutting more funding in other areas without cutting into services,” Sutherland said before the meeting.

City and council officials have also said the city could consider raising user fees, such as increasing the trash or sewer fees or upping the percent collected on monthly cable bills from 3 up to a maximum of 5 percent. Decreasing the city earned income credit for city residents who work outside the city has also been cited as a possibility.

In the agreement, SAFEbuilt will take over much of the City Hall space occupied by the police department before its move into a separate building several years ago. The company late last week interviewed five current city building department workers for possible employment. The current contract with city employees indicates that if an employee does not end up working for SAFEbuilt, the employee could exercise bumping rights for other jobs in city government.

“This is a tough time for those workers and the city,” Sutherland said prior to the meeting. ‘They will have some tough decisions to make.”

SAFEbuilt Vice President David Thomsen said Bay Village is the first Ohio city to employ SAFEbuilt, which currently has 140 public entity customers in Michigan, Colorado, North and South Carolina and Georgia. In the agreement, SAFEbuilt would retain 85 percent of all building fees, with the city keeping 15 percent. SAFEbuilt would provide all vehicles and technology, while also making sure all employees are properly registered and licensed. Officials said the company will split the cost of renovating the former police station area with the city.

“The (city worker) interviews went well, a final decision on that will be made in a week or two,” Thomsen said.

He said SAFEbuilt would like to get additional public entity contracts in Ohio and could add its Bay office as a base, meaning other jobs could be added in the future.




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