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Citing a development spurt, Woolwich officials want to expand their ranks yet again, this time adding a new hire to the building department.

The township last fall engaged the help of an outside contractor to keep up with the demand for inspections related to new construction, a boom that followed a few quiet years in which building department costs outstripped revenues. Now, chief building official Dave Heuchert says it would be more cost-effective to take on a full-time staffer to cover an expected upsurge over the next couple of years.

A new staff person would allow the township to move away from outside help, which comes at a higher per-hour cost, though only on an as-needed basis.

“The hope is to phase out the consultant completely,” he told councillors meeting Tuesday night.

With council’s approval, the new person will join a building department that currently has four full-time employees.

In response to a question from Coun. Larry Shantz, director of finance Richard Petherick noted there would be no direct impact on taxpayers, as the fees charged by the department are expected to cover its costs.

“The building department is self-contained, so it pays for itself with building permit revenue. Any of the expenses we’d have with an additional staff person would be borne with the revenue taken from building permits,” he explained.

Petherick told Coun. Patrick Merlihan the same applies to all liabilities for benefits and pensions assumed by the township in hiring another body.

Hesitant, Merlihan questioned the case for hiring extra staff as outlined in a report to council, particularly the suggestion that an extra person would make it easier for staff to attend training session.

“Isn’t it incumbent on individual employees to maintain their professional designations, even if it’s on their own time?” asked Merlihan.

Heuchert replied staff are required to meet standards and the training courses offered through the professional association are available only during regular business hours.

The biggest reason for the addition, he argued, is an expected uptick in residential development, said Heuchert. The numbers are already increasing: in the first 10 months of 2018, the township issued 69 dwelling unit permits; in the final two months, there were 82 permits.

“There is the potential for 215 new dwelling units to be constructed above and beyond what the township normally administers in any given year in these settlement areas. At a rate of $2,500 (average current revenue of a single-family dwelling unit), this would generate an additional $537,500 in added revenue to the building section per year moving forward. This increase in revenue from the additional permits should more than offset the expenses of the additional staff person,” he said in his report.

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