Las Vegas Sun

July 23, 2014

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County moves fire inspectors into Building Department

Over the objections of fire inspectors and several commissioners, the Clark County Commission voted Tuesday to merge the Fire Prevention Bureau into the Building Department. It has been under the Clark County Fire Department.

The issue: Commissioners considered a change in code that places the Fire Prevention Bureau under the supervision of the Building Department in an attempt to improve efficiency and customer service.

The vote: Approved 4-3, with commissioners Tom Collins, Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly in opposition.

What it means: Fire inspectors, plan checkers and deputy fire marshals responsible for inspecting the sprinkler, alarm and fire safety systems in buildings have a new boss, Ron Lynn, director of the Building Department.

The approximately 50 employees affected by the change previously reported to Fire Chief Bertral Washington and worked closely with firefighter crews at stations throughout the valley.

Many Fire Prevention Bureau employees voiced their opposition to the move during an hour-long public comment session at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting. They argued the bureau offers a specialized service that requires close interaction with the fire department and that the current system works well.

But County Manager Don Burnette said there’s room for “extraordinary improvement” in the Fire Prevention Bureau, specifically in how inspectors utilize their time and shrinking the turnaround for getting fire safety plans approved.

Burnette said Lynn is the best person to help implement the changes to improve its efficiency.

“It’s our opinion that (Ron) Lynn brings an expertise in the plans check, permitting and inspection process that, frankly, you don’t find in the fire department,” Burnette said.

Collins said he thinks changes can be made to the Fire Prevention Bureau while still keeping it under the supervision of the fire chief.

“It all keeps coming back to management. We ask you to provide good department management. If it isn’t happening, you need to change it. You don’t just take (the department) and put it somewhere else,” Collins said.

Commissioner Larry Brown supported the move as part of a broader effort to re-examine how the county can better offer services. Brown said commissioners need to trust the county manager and his staff to organize the departments as they see fit to get the best results.

If the merger doesn’t achieve the desired effect, Brown said, the commission could undo it when it reviews the move in a year.

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