The discussed a proposal at a Monday night meeting that would put iPads in the hands of code enforcement inspectors and also hire additional staff.
The purchase is part of an effort by the public works department to step up its enforcement, Florissant Public Works Director Louis Jearls said. A total of $11,400 would be allocated for the iPads--$9,000 for the devices and $2,400 for data plans--while an additional $36,300 is being sought to pay salaries and benefits for two full-time employees for the remainder of the year.
A first reading of the bill for bringing on the new staff was postponed, however, after Ward 6 Councilman Pat Stinnett asked to see a full study that would highlight how the funds would impact the department’s effectiveness.
"I would like to see us go back and go to the study to see what exactly ... is going to be the payback for the expenditure of these funds," Stinnett said.
His concern centered on exactly how much time would be saved, in terms of manhours, by having inspection staff use iPads and if additional hiring would really be necessary.
Jearls said his staff had conducted such an analysis and would prepare a report summarizing the findings for the city council. In total, he estimated the iPads would save about 4,000 hours every year through more efficient data entry, transfer and filling.
With the average city employee working 2,000 per year, Stinnett said the increased efficiency could effectively “buy” two more city employees and urged the council to “take a hard look” at the proposal. He also asked that the whole inspection process be thoroughly examined.
“I think the thing we are all looking for is vigorous enforcement of the code, and I'm not sure we need a lot of new ordinances if we will start to have the ability to apply what we have today,” he said.
In an interview after the meeting, Jearls said the city council has recently sought to stiffen its rules and regulations for building codes and asked the inspection department to be more vigilant in its enforcement, particularly on rental and vacant properties.
He explained that the software equipped on the iPads and their access to 3G Internet will allow forms used by inspectors to be instantly filled out, uploaded and stored.
It also holds advantages when the city issues tickets. Photos of violations can be taken and brought before a judge on the same day, Jearls said.
However, even with the high tech helping with the heavy lifting, Jearls said more employees will be needed.
"They [the city council] want us to be a lot more proactive. Right now, we are reactive," he said, adding that the new hires would be an effort to rebuild the inspection staff after several positions were cut in 2009.
"They want me to do this program. I need people and I need equipment," he said.