South Florida building departments suffer during downturn

There was a time when Davie Town Manager Gary Shimun struggled to find enough qualified code inspectors to deal with the building boom that swept South Florida. Now he's struggling to finding enough jobs to send them to.

As developers pull back on projects throughout South Florida, cities are seeing a drastic decline in the permit fees that once funded inspector salaries, pushing many municipalities to downsize their building departments.

In Pembroke Pines, the City Council will discuss a proposal to slash the building department by 10 to 15 workers at Wednesday's meeting. In Davie, the town is allowing inspectors to do contract work for Hallandale Beach, and in Miami-Dade, the county's building department slashed nearly 75 positions last year.

''In the past, everyone was scrambling to get people,'' Shimun said. ``It was always hard because our requirements were much more intense than the rest of the state. Now you have really good people, and you really don't want to lose them.''

But most cities may not have any other option than to lose some of their employees.

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