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Lakeville's Council Eliminates Job, Saves $31,000 in 2012

The City Council voted Dec. 5 to outsource an electrical inspector, and in the process, effectively cut the job of the in-house worker.

's City Council approved the elimination of a city job on Dec. 5, agreeing to outsource electrical inspections to an outside party.

Steven Kletschka, a contract electrical inspector for the state since 2001, was hired to take over the inspection work as a contractor.

The move saves the city more than $31,000 in 2012, and an estimated $45,800 in 2013, but effectively fires Lakeville's in-house electrical inspector—a man that has served in the role for eight years. The city employee was not named during the meeting, but the only electrical inspector employed by Lakeville is a man named Dan Ordahl.

The vote was not unanimous, and was strongly opposed by .

“I’m adamantly opposed to contracting this out," he said. "There’s no such thing as free money. We’re firing an experienced employee that is an asset to our community, that’s invested in our community, and that’s something we should keep."

Kletschka was selected after seven candidates applied for the new role following the Oct. 17 decision by the council to move forward with outsourcing the job, according to David Olson, the city's community and economic development director.

Kletschka is currently doing the same contract work for the city of Fairbault, and Olson said he'll limit his work exclusively to Lakeville and Fairbault upon being hired.

For Kletschka, the agreement gives him 80 percent of permit revenues that are generated from the issuance of electrical permits, Olson said. Currently, the city charges $89.50 for a residential electrical permit, $39.50 for remodels and repairs to homes, and commercial properties pay a fee of 1.5 percent of the job cost up to $10,000, and then 1 percent on anything over $10,000.

In 2009, Lakeville collected $90,010 in electrical permit fees, but that dropped to $65,347 in 2010. In 2012, 80 percent of those fees will go to Kletschka.

Olson said Kletschka is also responsible for scheduling inspections, and providing his own vehicle and equipment, as well as insurance and backup in the event he needs time off.

Little said drawbacks include slower appointment times for residents and businesses owners—they'll be going up from 30 minutes to two-hours—and said the move offers incentive for getting through inspections, not necessarily doing them right.

“We’re not doing this for citizens, we’re not doing this for the city, and we’re not doing this for businesses, so I question why we’re doing this," Little said.

said the case is a matter of "whether we’re biased toward the public sector or the private sector."

said waiting 2 hours as a homeowner "is very reasonable compared to a lot of (utility services)."

"We did this because we looked at it as a cost savings," she said. "It's not something new."

Ratzlaff LaBeau pointed out Ordahl could have, but didn't apply to resume the role as a contractor.

Lakeville used a contractor for electrical inspections prior to Ordahl's hiring in 2004.

michael bischel December 06, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Congratulations to the council on minding the pocket of the tax payer. This scrutiny needs to occur at all levels to eliminate waste.
Terry Elliott December 07, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Matt Little's objections are not persuasive. In fact, he is wrong. Good move City Council; now use the same quality analysis on other cost reduction efforts.
Ted December 07, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Thank you to the 4 Council members that stood up for the taxpayer!
Rich December 07, 2011 at 08:26 AM
I'm scratching my head trying to understand how this is better for Lakeville's taxpayers. In 2009 the city collected $90,000 in fees and payed the inspector $31,000 which means the city kept 66% of the fees. Last year the city collected $65,000 in fees and payed the inspector $31,000 which means the city kept over 50% of the fees. The new system pays the inspector 80% of the fees and the city only keeps 20%. Plus the wait time will be 2 hours instead of 30 minutes. How did the taxpayers come out ahead here? If the new inspector gets paid by collecting more fees what's to say he won't "find more things wrong" so he can make return trips to collect more fees from taxpayers? Charlie Gerk ends with a "drive by" hit and run comment that he never bothers to explain. Where exactly was public safety being compromised???? I've had 2 inspections done, one when I finished my garage and the other when I finished my lower level. I'd like to answer Charlie. I'm surprised Lakeville only paid $31,000 for an electrical inspector. $31,000 got Lakeville electrical inspections done for a lot less apparently then they'll be done in the future, and they we're done on time and without harassment of citizens.
Jason December 07, 2011 at 02:04 PM
I think the comment by Mayor Bellows wraps this whole debate up in a nutshell - this is entirely about the fundamental question of what value we place on government, versus what value we place on the private sector. Any other argument here, including spreadsheets, overhead, and the like, is entirely secondary. I ran a consulting business for over a decade, and I like everyone knows the trick in making for-profit consulting services cost competitive with full-time salaried labor performing the same role. When the market is super slow, as it is now, you can price yourself however you want and offer a significant amount of services, and make do. However, once demand escalates, and the amount of available labor drops, Lakeville will pay a premium, not save money, on acquiring additional labor to handle the load. In addition, you have to ensure your contractors are willing to do more for less - including benefits - which again is only possible during a slow period. Finally, where you do not have to deal with "scope" and "change orders" when you have in-house labor, you certainly live in that world when dealing with contractors. Any complex issues that arise from these inspections will potentially trigger additional charges and or contract issues that will eat into the savings we see on paper today. I applaud Mayor Bellows for his honesty. If the goal is to shrink or eliminate government, come out and own it, and put the real agenda in front of voters to decide for themselves.
michael bischel December 07, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Jason, I don't pretend to speak for the mayor but shrinking government and reducing government spending should always be a primary goal of any government body. Every dollar spent by the government is a dollar less it citizenry can invest in business, families, and jobs. Wasteful government spending reduces our standard of living
ABSG December 07, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Jason does make a good point with regards to current demand for inspections vs. the potential future demands. I highly doubt this newly hired contractor is going to hire additional labor himself if the demand increases! Increase demand will create longer wait times and that is where your harassment comes into play! People hate waiting around for contractors - they are on their own schedule! Two hours will become 3 hours and sooner or later it will be - "I will get there when I can!" Meanwhile homeowners have contractors lined up to finish the work! Well they are not going to wait around forever - they have other jobs to get done and it turns into a viscous cycle! Ratzlaff comes from the construction industry and she should know that you are on a contractors time table not the customers!!! I'd rather pay more to get whatever I am doing done FAST and ON TIME!!! And Michael - I agree it's great the city is looking at ways to cut costs. But let's not be nieve and think since the city saved us $31,000 dollars the city is going to lessen the amount of tax amount for you or me! That $31,000 is already spent somewhere else...I guarentee you! It's nothing but a shell game and we all know it!
Michael Jentzsch December 13, 2011 at 10:32 PM
It is good to see that so many readers here support the decision of the counsil, despite the fact that it almost seems as if Mr. Little wrote the article himself, or at least had some input in the drafting.
Derrick Williams (Editor) December 15, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Michael, I think you know me, and Patch better than that. If you have a complaint about the balance of the article, I'd welcome a chat with you.

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