City hires help for inspection load
A surge in commercial development in Lansing and the magnitude of the school district's $23.6 million bond construction projects are making it difficult for city inspectors to keep up. But help is on the way.
Construction on the new elementary school on West Mary Street and a new auditorium and band room at the high school began in September and is expected to continue for another year.
In addition, nearly $26.5 million worth of commercial construction is under way in Lansing, said John Jacobson, community development superintendent for the city of Lansing.
With only Jacobson and two full-time city inspectors on staff to assist with the plethora of building inspections, help was needed, he said.
"I don't think the town has ever experienced anything like this," Jacobson said, referring to the vast amount of new businesses popping up across town.
Lansing City Council last month approved hiring a third-party contractor, Design Energy Group, of Blue Springs, Mo., in an effort to keep development on track.
The council at its Dec. 21 meeting voted 6-1, with council member Harland Russell opposed, to hire the firm, which will perform onsite inspection and engineering services on the school construction projects.
Jacobson said the group's responsibilities would include "anything from structural to plumbing," allowing more time for city staff to concentrate on their other duties.
In a memo to City Administrator Mike Smith, John Young, director of public works, wrote that because of the amount of commercial construction in Lansing, "building inspection staff are taxed to a point that additional inspections required by the school projects would be impossible to accomplish in a timely fashion."
Young went on to say that design changes were likely to arise during construction and would have to be addressed quickly.
The contract states the city will pay Design Energy Group $75,000 plus expenses.
Jacobson said the firm would be paid with permit fees the city collects for the school projects. On Dec. 18, McPherson Contractors paid the city $99,572 for permanent building permits for the school projects.
"We don't have the staff to be there constantly," Jacobson said of the school construction sites. "I think it will not only help out as far as staff, but it will help the school district shorten the amount of time it takes for any review of change orders or design changes."
Jacobson said the city has maintained a 10-year working relationship with Design Energy Group.
The city previously contracted with the firm to perform structural, mechanical or electrical inspections on various projects, including Aldi grocery store, Holiday Inn Express and Rock Creek Medical Plaza.
"I have a comfort level with the type of inspections the firm provides," Jacobson said.