Clewiston hires firm to handle city inspection services

CLEWISTON — The City Commission voted June 3 without any new discussion to OK an arrangement for backup in handling its building inspections, comprehensive plan review, code enforcement inspections and building official services.

At the commissioners’ meeting May 20, acting Interim City Manager Shari Howell said that staff had received notice from Calvin, Giordano & Associates Inc. that it would no longer be providing services in the area. The same company also had been used by Hendry County, and the County Board of Commissioners recently acted switched their system to a special magistrate for code enforcement services. They ow are working with the City of LaBelle to streamline inspections and enforcement.

Ms. Howell explained then that city staff was seeking the OK to work with C.A.P. Government Inc. of Coral Gables, which was hired by the City of Lake Worth after a Request for Proposals had been issued, and that City Attorney Gary Brandenburg would use that as a basis to write a contract for Clewiston to use the firm’s services.

City Commissioner Julio Rodriguez refused at the May 20 meeting to vote for that way forward, saying he didn’t want to have the city be relying on an out-of-town company. “I’d rather have an employee than bring in somebody out of Palm Beach,” he stated. “It’s going to be more effective.”

That suggestion of his followed a short discussion he began about how burdened their staff directors, especially, have been with some taking on multiple roles due to the lack of a city manager and a recreation department head.

“I won’t be supporting this item,” Mr. Rodriguez stated when the mayor called for a motion. “During the budget (workshops), I want to look at all our directors because they’re all wearing several hats. So we need to find out what really they are… before I add any additional funding to these positions. This to me looks like a very expensive program,” he said, citing the company’s list of costs. He noted that Community Development Director Travis Reese “is wearing three or four, (Public Works Director) Sean (Sheffler) is wearing three, and we think this is good? It’s countereffective in running the city. Now we’re going to bring a professional manager in, but what I want to do is see, how are we going to split this up? Because we know it’s going to cost us money…” he went on.

Mayor Mali Gardner agreed with Mr. Rodriguez. “Staff wearing several different hats is an issue. But we have activities that are going on and we have requests for inspections, and we need to have someone to help if Travis is out on vacation.”

She said the request was on the June 3 agenda because “I don’t want to see our folks not get something done or approved. We’re holding up business if we don’t have somebody to do these things,” she finished.

Mr. Reese said, “What I’d recommend is you put this in place …You don’t want to be caught in this environment the way it is today … you see how hard it is to get a city manager … in a rural community.” He added that the city manager would be completely in control of the costs.

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