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Clark County fire inspectors facing overtime scrutiny

Clark County fire inspectors have drawn management’s scrutiny for not spending enough hours in the field doing inspections during their workday.

County officials hope to reduce their overtime as well.

The inspectors logged a total of 244 hours of overtime in February, costing county tax­payers $13,332, public records show.

For that same time period, county management analyzed the GPS records of inspectors’ vehicles to gauge how long they spend in the field during each shift.

The study concluded that vehicles are in the field for only slightly longer than four hours a shift, on average.

Fire inspectors typically work 10-hour shifts, which include a one-hour lunch break.

Based on the GPS data, county management has said that fire inspectors need to spend more time in the field and could get more inspections done each week.

“That’s 44 percent of the time,” Assistant County Manager Randy Tarr said at the April 2 County Commission meeting. “That’s a pretty low number when their primary job assignment is inspections.”

Building inspectors, by comparison, work in the field a little more than six hours during an 8½-hour shift with a half-hour lunch. At the April 2 meeting, the commission approved putting the fire inspectors under the oversight of the Building Department.

The fire inspectors ensure fire hazards are eliminated, fire alarm systems work and fire sprinkler systems are in order.

They also inspect fire safety systems in the construction of new buildings.

For special events, including conferences and conventions on the Strip, they do inspections to ensure that furniture and equipment is set up in the proper locations, with clear paths to exits.

The overtime records, obtained by the Review-Journal under the state public records law, add another dimension to the data that county leaders scrutinized.

Overtime pay didn’t come up in public discussions when county officials decided to move fire inspectors into the Building Department. Instead, officials talked of the need to boost efficiencies and give the public a centralized location to request services associated with fire and building permits.

County officials say reducing overtime wasn’t the driving factor for the Building Department move, but acknowledge it needs attention.

“It’s hard to predict how much we might be able to reduce overtime, but it’s certainly something we intend to focus on,” county spokesman Erik Pappa said. “Not all overtime can be eliminated, however, because of the need for off-hours inspections.”

That includes the need to inspect casinos outside of normal business hours.

County officials were unable to point to any specific changes planned that would cut overtime.

The overtime of fire inspectors varies widely. The 244 hours spread across 43 inspectors averages just 5.6 hours a month for each inspector.

Not every inspector works overtime, either.

In February, 24 inspectors didn’t work any overtime.

Five inspectors each logged more than 20 hours of overtime that month, with the highest working 40 hours in February, records show.

The hours vary because overtime is voluntary.

The overtime comes as fire inspectors try to be flexible with business owners to avoid disruptions, said fire inspectors Martin Casillas and Mike Afansiev, second vice president of Clark County Firefighters Local 1908.

“In some cases, that results in some of our inspectors working overtime, which is a service we’re proud to provide,” they said in a written statement.

Specifically, an inspector might work doing battery system tests at casinos after-hours. For example, a two-part battery test at the Aria starts at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. so convention spaces can be set up without interruption.

The fire inspectors stressed the need to be flexible, given the dynamics of how businesses operate at different hours, particularly with casinos and special events.

“This means there are inspections that occur before or after our shifts which cannot be completed during normal business hours,” they said.

They stressed that inspectors’ time in the field is just part of their jobs. They spend the rest of their shift on administrative work, training and education.

In 2012, fire inspector overtime totaled $263,819 for the year.

Among 45 fire inspectors on the payroll in 2012, overtime averaged $5,862 each.

The top earner received $21,941 in overtime pay in 2012, records show.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at
bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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