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City paying to fly up inspector

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 16, 2011

The city is paying to fly its former building inspections manager back and forth to Yellowknife from Calgary on an as-needed basis after encountering problems recruiting new staff.

The city's building inspections division is down to just one employee from four.

Phil Moon Son, executive director of the NWT Construction Association, said he's concerned the city hasn't made a greater effort to fill the vacant positions, especially that of Bill Fandrick.

Fandrick retired from his position as the manager of building inspections at the end of August. His position has been advertised, but hasn't been filled, so the city has been flying him to Yellowknife to fulfil his old duties.

"They're not prioritizing the replacement of this individual," said Moon Son, who added that every day he's not replaced, building projects are more likely to be delayed.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said the city posted the position and has conducted interviews, resulting in a job offer, but at the last minute, the candidate changed his mind. So, Fandrick is working on contract until someone else is hired to replace him.

"Right now, he's really doing us a favour," said Van Tighem.

"The agreement was he was going to be doing a lot of telecommuting - doing plan work and stuff over the computer - but with the other building inspector leaving at the same time as he did, it became much more important to have somebody (in Yellowknife)."

Niels Konge, owner of Konge Construction, said he's concerned about the level of efficiency that can be achieved with such a limited staff.

"If the city is going to issue building permits and collect money for those building permits, then there is certainly a level of service that is expected and it also should be done in a timely manner and going down to 25 per cent of staffing in that department, I don't know how they're going to do that."

Konge said he's also worried about the cost of flying Fandrick to Yellowknife.

"The cost of that is just outrageous. Are we going to see increase in building permits again or a decrease in services?" he asked, suggesting that money has to be recuperated somewhere.

"If they pass it on to the building permit, then our building permits are gonna go up and then the cost of building is going to go up and we're right back into that vicious circle of unaffordable housing."

Van Tighem said it's actually cheaper to have Fandrick on contract than it is to have him on staff, although he wouldn't say how much the city is paying him or what it costs to have him travel to Yellowknife.

Van Tighem wouldn't say where Fandrick has retired, but noted he drives to Calgary from a home in British Columbia and flies from there. A round-trip Canadian North ticket from Calgary to Yellowknife is about $700.

"It costs the city less to have him coming in and out on a contract basis than it costs for his salary and there's also two other (vacant) positions, so right now we're trying to find people to spend money on; it's not a matter of spending more than we normally would," said Van Tighem.

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