Filling a vacancy in Superior’s building inspection division has proven to be challenge.

Members of the city's Human Resources Committee voted at the Monday, Jan. 18, meeting to sweeten the pot with the hopes of improving the city’s chances to find qualified candidates who could fill an open position.

“We most recently completed our third recruitment for just a regular building inspector position,” said Cammi Koneczny, human resources director. “We did actually find a good candidate in that group.”

The city made a job offer, but the candidate rejected it because the salary was less than he currently earned, Koneczny said. After that recruitment effort failed, she reached out to Carlson-Dettman Consulting, a Madison-based firm that last reviewed the city’s compensation structure in 2014, to determine if other Wisconsin municipalities were having similar experiences. She learned other municipalities were losing building inspectors to retirement or the private sector.

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Koneczny proposed two ideas for improving the city’s chance to hire inspectors: increase wages and create an allowance that would allow inspectors to increase their number of certifications.

By increasing the salary, city officials have a greater likelihood of attracting a more qualified pool of candidates. The allowance would provide an opportunity for candidates to increase their certifications beyond those required for the job to help streamline the work, Koneczny said.

In recent years, the field of building and construction inspection has become increasingly competitive due to a shortage of qualified workers, according to a memo by Chris Carlson, Superior’s assistant public works director. He cited a 2014 study by the International Code Council that revealed 85% of building inspectors were older than 45, and more than 30% planned to retire within five years.

“The trends outlined in the study are becoming increasingly evident within our own Building Inspection Division,” Carlson wrote.

The decreasing supply and increasing demand for inspectors translates to a need for higher salaries, Carlson stated.

The last candidate who decided not to take the city's job offer wasn't certified in Wisconsin, but did have the background to acquire the credentials quickly, Koneczny said. Past efforts to hire less qualified people and teach them the job failed because of inexperience.

“I do think that raising the salary is going to help in attracting people that have been in the field a longer period of time,” Koneczny said.

Councilor Jack Sweeney asked if there was an alternative plan, such as outsourcing if the next recruitment doesn’t go any better.

Koneczny said she wasn’t aware of any firms in this region of the state that offer code inspection services.

Superior would be better served if the city retains its own inspection department, said Peter Kruit chief building inspector. Private firms in other parts of the state that provide those services are often serving multiple communities, and then there is the issue of travel.

After approving new job descriptions for the building inspection staff, the committee approved wage increases ranging from 8% to 20% depending on the position. They also approved a $4,000 allowance to allow staff to expand their certifications.

Koneczny estimated the changes would cost about $19,000 annually.

“We have to address this because three of our current inspectors are looking to retire in the next couple of years or so,” Koneczny said. “We have to have something in place. We have to start getting people in place and get them up to speed when that occurs.”

The changes will go before the City Council at its Tuesday, Feb. 2 meeting.