City ends contract with SafeBuilt, hires new building inspector

FLUSHING — In an effort to reduce building permit fees and consolidate local inspections, the City of Flushing has decided to part ways with SafeBuilt Inc. and hire a new building inspector.

At Monday’s meeting, the city council approved the termination of its contract with SafeBuilt and hired Flushing Township resident Robert Kehoe as the new city building inspector. The council also voted to appoint Flushing Fire Chief James Michael as the city’s new code enforcement officer.

Recently, Interim City Manager Clarence Goodlein was notified by SafeBuilt that the company intended to terminate its contract with Flushing unless the city agreed to increase its building permit fees and employ SafeBuilt’s trade inspectors for electrical, plumbing and HVAC inspections. Last October, Flushing City Council voted to lower building permit fees by 5 percent after local builders said that the fees were too high.

Upon conducting a study of surrounding communities, Goodlein said that Flushing’s current building permit fee schedule with SafeBuilt is among the highest in the area. This prompted Goodlein and his staff to look for a local building inspector who could provide the same services as SafeBuilt at a lower cost to builders and to the city.

Under a proposed service agreement with Kehoe, the city would keep all collected building permit fees and pay Kehoe a straight fee of approximately $10,000 a year. In comparison, the city paid SafeBuilt $42,166 during the 2019/2020 fiscal year alone, while giving SafeBuilt over 90 percent of its building and construction fees.

Kehoe, currently a part-time building inspector for several other local communities, was hired by Flushing Township earlier this year.

Goodlein also said that it would also be more cost effective for the city to appoint Chief Michael as its code enforcement officer, rather than relying on SafeBuilt for inspections. He said that Michael’s experience as a fire inspector in Flushing and with Bishop International Airport makes him well-qualified for the code enforcement position.

Although Michael’s salary will increase with his additional code enforcement responsibilities, Goodlein said that the cost would be offset by the city’s termination of its contract with SafeBuilt and lower fees proposed by Kehoe.

Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlicheck said that appointing Michael will also be a welcome respite for the Flushing City Police Department, which has been tasked with code enforcement duties since 2016.

“We’ve been asking our cops to pull over speeders, conduct investigations and respond to 911 calls, all while handling code enforcement around the city,” he said. “Having a designated code enforcement officer will help to streamline the process and ease the burden on our police.”

SafeBuilt, which has contracted with the City of Flushing since 2016, agreed to terminate its contact with Flushing Township earlier this spring.