04/17/09 — City building department will assist with fire inspections backlog

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City building department will assist with fire inspections backlog

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 17, 2009 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro Fire Department Capt. John Morton conducts a fire inspection at Save the Family Child Care on Wayne Memorial Drive this morning. Morton goes through a checklist of items with Carolyn Mitchell, the director the facility. The department is responsible for checking more than 3,500 buildings over a three-year period.

The Goldsboro Fire Department and city Inspections Department will start working together to reduce a backlog of fire inspections, which are running more than a year behind, interim Fire Chief Gary Whaley said.

It isn't uncommon for a city of Goldsboro's size to run a year or two behind in inspections, Whaley said.

The interim chief said one man is in charge of most fire inspections, Capt. John Morton. Whaley praised Morton, and said he understands the backlog.

"He's done a good job, but there's a lot of issues that will come up daily that he has to take care of, that causes his schedule to get off task," Whaley said. "By taking what we can do and combining it with what the city Inspection Department can do, we can catch up."

Morton is charged with inspecting Goldsboro's 3,500 businesses on a three-year cycle, in addition to checking other new construction, Whaley said.

The sheer number of inspections is the reason the interim chief decided to start working with the  Inspections Department, which is headed by Chief Inspector Ed Cianfarra.

Cianfarra's office includes another building inspector, and employees who specialize in mechanics, electrical, minimum housing, plumbing, permits and plans.

In the Goldsboro Fire Department, 15 officers can do "lower level" fire inspections, but only Morton is qualified to do "highly technical" in-depth inspections, Whaley said.

The staff from Cianfarra's office might be able to fix that problem, Whaley said.

Cianfarra said all of his inspectors are also certified fire inspectors.

"It's going to make the city a safer place to live and work," Cianfarra said. "We're going to do a lot of commercial businesses in the area that we're assigned."

Whaley said the timing of the plan capitalizes on the economic downturn.

"With the economy like it is, we don't have as much building as we normally do," Whaley said. "Therefore it's a good time to catch up

on our maintenance


The city notes there is no charge for fire inspections, unless it's a requested inspection. A $65 fee is assessed for requested inspections, Whaley said.

But with any inspection comes the potential cost of being out of compliance -- penalties are assessed if fire code violations are not addressed in a set period of time.

Whaley also noted that if the fire code violations are especially severe, an owner can be assessed with a fine on the spot.

But although fines can be imposed, Cianfarra insists that the fire inspectors are not fishing for funding through fire code violations.

"On the Goldsboro Web site, we've put all the things that we're going to be looking for," the chief building inspector said.

Cianfarra said the building inspectors will only inspect for fire code violations, and will only address other building code violations if they pose a severe hazard.

"The only time we (inspectors) will step out of that realm, as fire inspectors, is if we see something that is definitely a life safety (issue)," Cianfarra said.