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City fee boosts save North Las Vegas business licensing jobs

North Las Vegas’ business licensing department has slipped the noose, assessing thousands of dollars in new license fees and promoting two employees as part of a shared-services committee-recommended agency overhaul.

Shared-services committee members on Thursday decided against folding the five-member department into Las Vegas’ 30-staffer team, citing millions of dollars in cost savings expected to result from keeping the city’s business licensing function in-house.

The decision preserves four full-time positions under the direction of North Las Vegas Community Development and Compliance Director Greg Blackburn, who spent an hour making the case for his department’s autonomy at a committee meeting earlier this month.

Blackburn predicted a departmentwide face-lift — inspired by Las Vegas’ own recent code compliance “streamlining” — will generate a $1.8 million windfall for the city, with increases on existing fees and expanded field compliance efforts making up the lion’s share of additional departmental revenue.

New council-approved license fees for banks and storage warehouses are expected to net the city about $400,000 above costs associated with hiring an auditor and promoting a pair of existing city licensing employees.

A handful of shared-services committee members worried the department’s skeleton crew simply wouldn’t have the manpower to carry out an internal shakeup.

A few asked whether, in the absence of a departmental merger, Las Vegas staffers had simply “wasted a lot of effort” teaching North Las Vegas employees how to better do their own jobs.

Those concerns were echoed by Las Vegas officials, some of whom felt their municipal neighbors had suddenly come down with a bad case of cold feet.

“We’ve found areas where there’s not much appetite to work together, which is tragic, but true,” Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell said.

It remains to be seen whether two other money-troubled North Las Vegas agencies can also escape the gallows.

The city’s economic development and redevelopment agencies faced an opening round of shared services committee scrutiny on Thursday.

Department heads from both cities agreed that Las Vegas’ 20-member economic development team had a role in bolstering North Las Vegas’ money-troubled crew of new business cheerleaders.

They quickly parted ways over what that role should be.

Committee members, frustrated by officials’ inability to settle on a workable model for consolidating the two agencies, finally opted to table the issue until early next month.

“This is the third or fourth time we’ve been through this and I still don’t know what we’re doing,” committee Chairman Glenn Christenson concluded.

“It’s hard. … We want to be helpful, to both sides, but you’re not making it easy to do that.”

Shared-services committee members plan to circle back to the topic at 3 p.m. April 3 at Las Vegas City Hall, 495 S. Main St.

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