OLDSMAR — City leaders signed off on most of City Manager Bruce Haddock's proposals at Tuesday's budget workshop. But it took some extra convincing to get them to okay his recommendation to contract with Pinellas County to review building plans and conduct inspections.
The city could save $30,000 by outsourcing with the county, Haddock said. But some council members weren't swayed until Haddock described the current system as "hit and miss" and said, "I get more complaints than I think I should related to this operation."
The change, he said, may result in Oldsmar's first layoff since the economic downturn.
Both Mayor Jim Ronecker and Vice Mayor Doug Bevis said the savings alone wasn't great enough to warrant giving up the control the city has with its own service. And while Ronecker acknowledged that there had been issues in the past, he said, "I haven't gotten a complaint in a long time."
Ultimately, both said they were willing to give the new arrangement a shot.
"I'm going to change my mind and support the city manager's stance on this in hopes that we're not going to lose what we have right now," Ronecker said.
Council member Linda Norris said her brother, a longtime contractor, only had positive things to say about Oldsmar. But after much discussion, she also opted to give outsourcing a chance.
Haddock told the council that the city would be able to end the agreement if it doesn't work out.
One council member, Jerry Beverland, didn't hesitate to support Haddock's proposal. He said that for years he had to go out to residents' houses and straighten out problems from what he felt were overzealous inspections. He didn't go into detail, but, on Wednesday, he said he ran into similar friction on one of his own projects.
The new arrangement will go into effect in October, but the city will phase in elements of the program in September.
In some ways, the public may not see much difference. The city will still receive building permits and issue them. The county will staff Oldsmar's City Hall for 12 hours a week and supply inspectors with specific experience out in the field.
In light of the economy, governments need to look at more collaborative efforts, Haddock said Wednesday. "If someone else is doing it, and they can do it better or cheaper or both," he said, "then why not let them?"
Lorri Helfand can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4155.