Quest for Transparency—Building Inspector June 7, 2021
There seems to be a hot topic in Kewaunee’s City government right now. Our building inspector has resigned and his last day will be Friday, June 11th. Now there may be some mixed feelings on this, but I have to say, I have heard more complaints about this man than anything else since I’ve been on council.
The following are actual complaints that I’ve heard from my constituents.
“He charged me $500 and he never inspected anything.”
“Permits have gotten a lot more expensive—is it just to pay the inspector’s full-time salary?”
“He just came into my house without notice—he just walked right in!”
“He says that I’ve got 10 days to fix something or he’ll tear down my home.”
“I’m just trying to fix up some problems in my house and the permits will cost over $1000!”
“He told me to build it this way, and then two weeks later he came back and told me to build it another way.”
People get really hot about this issue. I have heard many people say that they are not fixing their homes because they don’t want to get a permit and have the inspector show up inside their homes. By the way, there is a 2019 ordinance that gives the inspector the right to march into your homes and inspect. And if you stand in his way, he will get a police officer.
In case you don’t quite believe it, here is the exact citing of the ordinance on the city’s website:
Sec. 14-58 Inspection of work.
Powers. The building inspector or an authorized certified agent of the building inspector may, at all reasonable hours, enter upon any public or private premises for inspection purposes. The building inspector may require the production of the permit for any building, plumbing, electrical or heating work. No person shall interfere with or refuse to permit access to any such premises to the building inspector or his/her agent while in the performance of his/her duties. In the event that the building inspector is refused access to any such premises, then the inspector is authorized to apply for a special inspection warrant pursuant to Wis. Stats. 66.0119 or subsequent amended section.
I don’t know about you, but that made a lot of people think twice about doing projects in their homes, especially with the reputation of this current building inspector.
But now he has quit to work somewhere else. So the question is, what should the city do now about a building inspector? I think that it would be helpful to lower the temperature of the town with some careful consideration and thoughts on what we feel is the proper role of a building inspector. Do we really want to take over people’s homes? What specific qualifications should he or she have, such as knowledge of electricity, plumbing, heating and general construction? Is the permit fee primarily a money-making revenue for the city? Or is it just to offset the cost of the full-time inspector? Do we need to hire a few part-time people with different skills sets?
I’m very aware that there are many things to consider, and I’m not a builder of any sort. I would just like the citizens in Kewaunee to feel like they can get work done on their homes without feeling monetarily gauged with the fees or terrorized with the heavy-handed approach of this current inspector. Ideally, the building inspector should at least produce helpful guidance on the correct way to maintain/build a home and should also confirm that a contractor is doing a good job.
I would really love to hear your feedback. I think this is an opportunity to turn our small town back into a happy place, where we all help each other out and building inspection is a helpful service, not a threat.
Thanks for listening,