Third of Contra Costa Co inspectors to be laid off

May 23, 2011 6:42:15 PM PDT
Roughly a third of all the Contra Costa County building inspectors will be laid off June 1. The county says there's simply not enough revenue to support those jobs, but the inspectors don't think that's true.

The building's department has a $5 million shortfall. The layoffs will save $1.8 million and the harsh reality is in the big budget picture, the county just feels that things like public safety, law enforcement, health and human services jobs are more important to try to save first over inspectors.

Contra Costa County building inspectors warn residents could have to deal with a lot more neglected, trashy-looking properties if 14 union inspectors and two non-union managers are laid off as planned next week.

Aaron Christian lives next door to the San Pablo house.

"A lot of homeless people at first they were breaking out the windows, then boarded it up to keep the bums up out of there," said Christian.

"The effect would be properties like this simply won't get abated as quickly, fewer people will come out to do what has to be done to make sure a property like this is taken care of," said Rollie Katz from Public Employees Union No. 1.

"The money is not there," said Supervisor John Gioia.

Gioia said the jobs are funded through building permit revenue, which has plummeted since 2008. In those days there were between 8,000 and 9,000 inspections a year. Now it's down to between 2,000 and 3,000. Most of the lay-offs are new construction inspectors.

"With a department like that that gets all of its revenue from fees, you just look around and see the decrease in home construction, the decrease in major remodels, it's unfortunately a very difficult time," said Gioia.

The inspectors' union is also upset about a building department office that is being remodeled at a cost of $8 million with $500,000 budgeted this year for furniture.

Gioia says they're looking at that $500,000 again, but even if it were given back, the jobs could not be saved. The remaining inspectors will focus on keeping up the condition of abandoned homes.

"If a home is dilapidated, blight to the neighborhood, vacant, that's our focus. We just don't need the same number of building inspectors looking at new construction because it's just not occurring," said Gioia.

The inspectors union says many of them will be taking a vacation day on Tuesday to take their case to the supervisor's meeting in the morning.

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