Bay City Official Recommends Privatization

BAY CITY-Out of apparent frustration with Bay City's building code enforcement team City Commissioner Roy Schram suggested Oct. 9 that building code enforcement be privatized. Schram has been trying to get important cost data from the building department that enforces code, but the department has failed to provide the information.

City Manager James Palenick told the Bay City Times that privatization could not work in code enforcement because "it requires input from the policy-makers and flexibility to take into account economic hardship of some property owners." "That is simply not true," notes Michael LaFaive, managing editor of Michigan Privatization Report. "The fact is that private operators are more flexible since they are not bound by the bureaucratic rules and virtually guaranteed salaries of their government counterparts," LaFaive says.

In November 2000, MPR highlighted Battle Creek's success in outsourcing inspections in an article recommending that the city of Detroit should do the same. In 1997, Battle Creek contracted with a private inspection firm for supplemental plumbing, electrical, mechanical and building inspection services and saved $600,000 in its first three years of operation.

There is nothing about private, for-profit inspections that would make them of less quality than public ones. Private inspectors simply can't afford to do shoddy work.

Private code enforcement is not unusual in Michigan and other states. Battle Creek outsources many of its inspections and has saved $600,000 between 1997-2000 as a result.

Editor's Note: For more on this subject see, "Looking over Private Inspections," in the winter 2001 edition of Michigan Privatization Report.