We have all been subject to or victims of the budget process; and there is very little we can do about it since in many municipalities, building inspections are often regarded as a nuisance to be tolerated because the inspections can generate funds in excess of their budget to provide a “profit” to the municipal general fund; and while there are states that prohibit this practice, enforcement generally appears to be politically unpopular.
For example, a few years ago, there was an email going around in our profession that showed a TV station monitoring an inspector conducting over 200 “inspections” on new homes in a single day, often with no entry! When the station questioned the department, they were told that they were in a budget crisis with a hiring freeze. So where did the collected inspection fees go? Either the fees were set too low to operate the department or funds were siphoned off into the general budget for the municipality. In my experience, builders and their subcontractors want (read, need) a professional inspection to provide cover for them in the event of litigation resulting from alleged Code violations. In my experience, I have only heard of excessive fee complaints a couple of times and, in each case, the contractor was justified. But did he get a refund? I don’t think so.
What builders do complain about, and what I think IAEI can do something about, is “inspector attitude,” whatever that is! Well, I know exactly what that is as an instructor providing NEC instruction to New Jersey licensed electrical contractors.
During the course of the seminars, questions are asked regarding code interpretations, and, more importantly, the inspector’s attitude. I definitely get the feeling that a lot of inspectors don’t like their job; why else would they play the role of the Playground Bully in the office and in the field? Do they act out of a feeling of insecurity based on their uneasiness in applying the rules? Maybe. Sadly, they are not held accountable for their actions—to the state or to the municipality—and they know it!
The solution is in attending IAEI chapter and division meetings, becoming involved in Code discussions with other inspectors, and learning the Code and a non-adversarial attitude.
The solution, however, is the problem. Many inspectors live a considerable distance from chapter and division meeting sites and cannot spare the time and expenses involved in travel. Chapters have to realize that the status quo no longer works (if it ever did) and IAEI must become more accessible to its members.
The international office has to strongly encourage chapters with large geographical areas to actively form divisions; sadly, there are some who view this as a loss of chapter control and who discourage any change in the status quo as a threat to their personal agenda.
Why is it that the only state chapters with multiple divisions are Florida (9), Ohio (7), and Illinois (6)? They meet locally and I am sure that they leave the meeting with some consensus regarding the NEC. If they can do it, why are there not more divisions throughout the country? For example, The Eastern Section recently increased their Divisions by 33% to 3! Three divisions in a section that includes New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts! Mercy, we can do better—and we must—if we are to continue to be a link in the U.S. electrical chain.