DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas proposes suspending some commercial building inspections

February 23, 2019

DeKALB – While City Manager Bill Nicklas continues to “right size” the government, he is proposing the city suspend their commercial building inspection program, among others.

Staffing cuts in both the city’s finance and fire departments have placed more strain on current staff to pick up the job responsibilities. Therefore, Nicklas is proposing suspending the inspection program until further notice.

He also wants to change the annual fire and life safety inspections, as well as hotel and motel inspections, to a biennial schedule. Finally, Nicklas is proposing the elimination of gas station licenses, because the fire martial and DeKalb County Health Department already conduct inspections.

Nicklas said he was prompted to dig deeper into the staffing implications behind the inspection programs as he was taking stock of the city’s “thinner” staff.

“That started an internal discussion with our fire department, which has [historically] provided personnel for those programs,” Nicklas said in a phone interview Friday. “So we’ve been talking about it internally and I thought it would be time to bring it up to the council level.”

According to the agenda, Nicklas is asking for direction from the City Council on the matter, not a vote yet.

Action cannot be taken on the license program proposals until a consensus can be reached with the firefighters union, since the action would require a letter of agreement with the city of DeKalb and the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Nicklas said in his conversations with local business owners, there was some feedback which conveyed the fact that the commercial inspection programs don’t need to occur as regularly as they do.

“We come in once a year and look at things,” Nicklas said. “And [business owners] were saying ‘we got things up to speed and don’t really need to see you guys for a while.’ ”

Nicklas emphasized that the pre-plan portions of the commercial building inspections will continue. Pre-planning allows for the DeKalb Fire Department to have detailed floor plans of businesses in the city in case of an emergency.

“Firefighters are going to run into a building, often dark and smokey, and need to know where doors, walls, and flammables are,” Nicklas said. “So what [the city] has done for years is ask businesses to allow us to draw out their floor plan, and we put that in our [fire] engines and trucks digitally, so on the way to a fire, [firefighters] know what they’re getting into.”

Nicklas said, to date, the city has completed 846 pre-plans, and have only 77 to go. Once completed, the pre-plans would be reviewed and updated on a three-year cycle, according to the proposed changes.

Talks with the fire union have been “very collaborative,” Nicklas said.

The City Council will give direction on this item during the meeting at

6 p.m. Monday at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 400 S. Fourth St.