By Jessie Burchette
Rowan Countys building inspections department continues to undergo change, with more coming.
For the first time in months, all of the departments positions are filled. A newly created position was filled this week.
But that will change Friday when Barry Motsinger, the department manager, works his last day.
Motsinger, a former engineer at Pillowtex, was hired as inspections director in 2003 when Pillowtex closed.
A Forsyth County resident, he has taken a job with the Winston-Salem-Forsyth Schools.
The county has already posted the job and is looking for a new manager. Thomas OKelly has been appointed interim manager.
Hiring of a new manager comes as the county prepares to expand the department, adding an inspector, a plan reviewer and a new software program to automate the current manual method of processing building permits.
Commissioners previously agreed to the new system that is expected to cost about $280,000. It will allow inspectors to electronically record inspections and builders access to the information. Inspectors will spend more time in the field and less doing paperwork in the office.
Over the past year, the inspections department has incurred the wrath of some builders who have complained about the lag time in getting inspections and other services including required plan reviews for commercial projects.
Ed Muire, planning and development manager, said Wednesday that the county has been contracting with a certified Level 3 inspector to do plan reviews and supplement the staff effort. The inspector, Craig Sloop of Landis, is a former county inspector who now works for Mecklenburg County.
A Granite Quarry contractor called on county commissioners Monday to do what it takes to bolster the inspections department to get quicker action.
Mike Brinkley said he wasnt complaining about the inspections department, but instead wanting more help for the department.
If its a matter of funds, contractors dont mind paying more, said Brinkley, adding that delays of four to six weeks may be OK in Mecklenburg County, but not here.
Currently, plan reviews in Rowan County require between four and six weeks.
Its ridiculous for it to be so bad in Rowan County, said Brinkley, going on to refer to the exodus of Rowan inspectors to Mecklenburg County. Its Rowan County week when I go to the Mecklenburg Inspections Department.
Brinkley worried aloud what will happen if a really large commercial project came to the county.
We are on it, Chamberlain said.
Over the past several months, the county has made changes in the department including adding one new position and restructuring the inspection process.
The efforts are apparently working.
County Manager Bill Cowan said Wednesday that he hasnt heard any complaints recently.
Cowan said most of the builders and contractors are aware of the countys efforts to expand the staff and improve the efficiency.
The software that is used by the inspections department in other high-growth counties is expected to speed up the process.
But that could take months.
If it survives the upcoming budget sessions, the process to get the software, laptops and do the necessary training will take months.
A part of the countys difficulty in hiring and keeping inspectors has been the requirement that they be certified in all five building trades. Most other counties require certification in only one trade.
Some of the countys longtime inspectors with the multi-trade certifications have moved on to counties that pay far more $20,000 or more a year in Mecklenburg.
Several months ago, the county laid out a plan to convert to single-trade inspections, expecting that would make it easier to fill vacant positions.
That plan has now been modified with a mix of multi-trade inspectors and some certified in one or two trades.
Pending approval of the proposed budget, the inspections department will grow to a staff of 11, including the manager.
Muire said the modified plan is working well and only a handful of inspections are transferred from one day to the next.
By Jessie Burchette