Just as construction activity begins to rebound, a severe shortage of building inspectors is delaying projects in Dallas, according to a City Council briefing.
Dallas is now proposing to immediately hire more inspectors but also to raise permit fees.
The city reduced its inspection staff by 51 percent, but the workload only declined by about 9 percent, according to city records.
"If you want business to come to the city of Dallas, you've got to be friendly and you've got to make sure that you've got a staff to make sure they get a building permit," Councilman Tennell Atkins said.
"In October, I expressed, 'We need to have more staff, and we can't wait. The longer we wait, businesses go elsewhere,'" Atkins said.
Contractor Keller Webster said it took as much as six weeks to get a permit in the past, but the wait is even longer now.
"And in the city of Dallas, it's been running twice that and, in some cases, three times that amount," Webster said. "I was at the City Council meeting when they cut the budget, and I told them they made a mistake, so now I can say I told them so."
But Phil Crone of the Greater Dallas Homebuilders Association says it's not fair for the city to raise permit fees. He said he believes fee money was used in the past to pay for other services at City Hall.
"The fees that you pay need to be directly commensurate with the services that you receive from the city," Crone said. "We're not entirely convinced as we've delved into the budget here that that’s exactly going on."
The City Council briefing detailed the plan for increased fees in return for faster service.
"We started on this in September, and here we are in December," Councilman Ron Natinsky said. "We've got a solution to it that we’re ready to implement right now."
But Crone said he wants changes in the plan before the City Council considers it in January.