Lack of inspectors in Jefferson County may slow growth

The problems in Jefferson County just seem to keep stacking up. {}In trying to balance the budget, commissioners say one of their critical needs is adding gas inspectors. Right now, there are only two inspectors covering all new development in the state's largest county.{}In a county strapped for cash, adding another inspector to the payroll is a lot to ask,{}but inspections services tells us if they don't get some extra help, new home developments and new business growth will hit a brick wall.

If you own a home or business in Jefferson County, Stan Smith likely checked out your plumbing or gas lines before you moved in.{}A county budget crisis took his department from six down to two. Stan survived the cut.

"It's trying," Stan Smith, a Jefferson County inspector said. "Everyone is having a rough time right now."

The two inspectors clock about 150 miles of travel across the county every day{}and Stan often makes as many as 3-4 inspections per new home.

"The severity of it, it's more of a life safety type issue," Smith said.{}

"Our problem is not that we can't make the inspection, it's getting to the inspection to make the inspection," Bill Mullins, Director, Inspection Services said.{}"When an inspector cannot come out there in a timely manner to make the concealed piping in a wall, it involves a delay, it cannot be covered up with drywall, or sheet rock is a common term, until the inspection has been made."

Peyton Rogers , a builder with Harris and Doyle tells us, home development is picking up in unincorporated Jefferson County.

"The market has taken a swing compared to how it's been the past few years," Rogers said.

... And that growing {}market, means even more work for the two plumbing and gas inspectors. In fact, their workload has doubled since last year.

"The economy is turning around and we are actually permitting more permits than we were a year and a half or two years ago," Mullins said.

Inspection Services is asking for one more plumbing and gas inspector which means they are still half the size they were three years ago. The director told us, this is like a snowball effect. If the county cannot add a new inspector by next year the situation will grow even more serious.