Washoe County's Building and Safety Department has been struggling to stay in the black since new home construction began to fall off 2 ½ years ago. Now, 11 employees remain in what used to be a 32-person department. Part of the problem is that Building and Safety is “enterprise” funded. That means all of their operating funds come out of service fees, not taxes.
As the construction industry struggles to survive in Northern Nevada, so does the department that issues permits and inspections. It now has roughly half the budget and half the staff it did when the area was experiencing a boom in growth just a few years ago. In April department employees were asked to make a tough decision, face loosing 2 to 3 three more employees, or reduce their hours. They voted in favor of fewer hours, essentially reducing each of their wages by about 20%. “We’re definitely not in favor of it,” said employee DJ Korson, “but we're more in favor of it than loosing more people.”
As a result of the decision, employee hours will be cut from 40 to 32 per week, and the Building and Safety Department will be closed on Mondays. The change is not expected to be permanent. Managers say they expect the economy to turn around by the spring of 2010, and in that case the office will once again be open 5 days a week. For now, the department is open to the public Tuesday through Friday 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM