April 17, 2013 - Two Independence Township building inspectors received a 27 percent increase in pay after the Board of Trustees cast a 5-2 vote on April 2. Clerk Barb Pallotta and Trustee David Lohmeier opposed the motion.
In 2012, inspectors Merle West and Ron Shelton were paid a total of $52,000, and they completed 2,030 inspections. In 2013, Building Department Director David Belcher expects inspections to increase to approximately 3,050.
As a result of the higher volume of inspections, Belcher asked the board to sign a contract with the two employees for $66,000 a year, without any additional benefits. The contract will be reviewed every 90 days.
The pay increase for the Building Department's contract employees will cost the township $14,000, a raise some members of the board felt might be unfair to other workers.
Lohmeier said he was "nervous that we're only doing it for these two individuals. While their workload is clearly higher, everyone's workload in the township is higher than it was a couple of years ago."
Pallotta said she felt torn about increasing the building inspectors' pay. "The last 60 days, I've had to make some hard decisions with my own staff," she mentioned.
"I can't compensate them for the extra hours they put in because my budget doesn't allow for it." Pallotta said, "It breaks my heart to watch all of our employees work so hard everyday, and they don't get the benefit of these contractors."
In addition to considerations of fairness in offering the raises, Lohmeier felt the job performance in the building department didn't warrant an increase.
"We nearly lost our building authority because of issues we had in inspection, so I wouldn't hold it up as a model of quality in the past," Lohmeier said.
"If I had $14,000 to put in a kitty to distribute based on performance, I don't know if this is where I'd spend it," he added. "It's a huge increase in compensation."
Treasurer Paul Brown disagreed. "My perception is not that we're giving them a huge increase; my perception is that they are hugely underpaid," he said.
"For us to pretend that we're doing them a favor by bringing their compensation up to a reasonable level is a bit of an insult," he stated. "We need to do this because it's the right thing to do."
"The fact that this is a huge increase doesn't exclude it from being a huge bargain," said Trustee Andrea Schroeder.
Supervisor Pat Kittle compared the $66,000 pay for Independence Township's inspectors to Orion Township's $144,000 and Oakland Township's $94,000 compensation for similar work.
"If these guys decide to walk, what's the risk to the township as far as incremental expense?" Kittle asked. "I don't know if we'd ever get similar services done at similar prices."
"I don't have a fear that folks are going to walk away instantly," Lohmeier said. "Why aren't we bidding out this work? We should be trying to get the best service at the lowest cost for the taxpayer."
"I don't think if we go through the bid process we're going to get this rate," Schroeder said.
"The demand for their services has gone up," said Trustee Ron Ritchie. "I think there's some security in this for the township with having some metrics to review every ninety days."
The board meets again on May 14 at 7 p.m. at 6483 Waldon Center Drive.
Clarkston News reporter