Many a local resident or business owner has stood ready, checkbook in hand, only to have the phone rings with news that a scheduled Thursday afternoon city inspection isn't going to happen. Facing the prospect of going without hot water or locking up the store till Monday, these taxpayers are left to wonder just how much our municipal employees value the "customers" who foot the bills.
That's why it's refreshing to see that Las Vegas Building and Safety Department Director Chris Knight - along with some of his elected bosses - understands that his employees are there to serve at the convenience of the taxpayers, not the other way around.
Mr. Knight announced last week he plans to add two building safety inspectors who will work Saturday and Sunday shifts, visiting homes and businesses in the city to approve everything from new water heaters to gas line repairs.
Previously, home and business owners could request weekend inspections, but they could then expect to be charged for inspectors' overtime - often $250 or more.
By adding the two additional inspectors, at a combined cost of about $200,000 annually including benefits, the department can stagger inspectors' shifts without having to pass on overtime costs to customers, Mr. Knight said.
"It never fails - it's Friday night when the water heater takes a dump," added City Councilman Steve Ross, who joined Mr. Knight and Mayor Carolyn Goodman for the announcement.
Before the new hires, the city had 15 inspectors on duty Tuesday through Thursday, and seven or eight on Mondays and Fridays, Mr. Knight said. The two new inspectors will help reduce backlogs that occur on Mondays and Fridays, and they will work regular weekend shifts for common inspections such as water heaters, water softeners, patios and swimming pools.
Mr. Knight said one of the inspectors is already on board and contributed to inspections at 26 locations the weekend of July 7 and 8.
Whether adding staff was necessary to achieve the more flexible weekend shifts is a separate question. But it's bad enough when homeowners have to wait days for approval on a routine repair. Any business owner waiting for a Thursday inspection before he or she can re-open to the public, who gets that "Too busy today, see you Monday" call, can testify that sending the help home for four days can be a lot more than a mere inconvenience.
Weekend inspections are a big step forward.