Outsourced Safebuilt inspection 'a joke'

As an opponent of privatizing city services, I had an interesting experience in mid-October, when I had a new driveway installed. I watched the crew pretty closely, and at one point I noticed a man approach them from my neighbor’s yard and hand one of them a piece of paper. He then turned and walked away. Curious about who he was, I watched him leave and saw that he got into a car with a Safebuilt logo on the door.

Safebuilt is the private, for-profit company that now handles all the duties of the former building department of the city of Cleveland Heights.

Later, when I talked to the foreman of the crew about how the job was coming along, he asked me, “Did you see the inspector?” 

He relayed that his entire crew was gobsmacked by the so-called “inspection” that Safebuilt had performed on my driveway. He also mentioned that the crew had delayed part of its process, waiting for the inspection of the gravel base before applying the first layer of asphalt. But the inspector showed up two hours early.  

The foreman further stated that if this job had been in Shaker Heights, the inspector would have walked the entire driveway, stomping on the stones to make certain they were well packed before the asphalt was applied. When I talked to him later, he did acknowledge that another Safebuilt “inspector” had come to the jobsite, but that one didn’t look at the job either—just talked to the crew a bit and left.

I was pretty certain that I had hired a reliable company, and thus was not worried about the quality of work for my new driveway. But what if I hadn’t? And what if the other driveways that were done that day in Cleveland Heights were subjected to a similar “joke inspection,” as described by the foreman of my crew? Given the financial pressures many are experiencing during COVID-19, what if some of those other hired contractors were less than thorough, or less than scrupulous, hired by homeowners who just want a job to pass inspection? What if they were given the same hastiest of “inspections” that my driveway received? What if that kind of slipshod performance extends to other jobs in Cleveland Heights, such as pouring concrete, building an addition, or putting on a roof? 

The reason a city has an inspection process for new building is so that the quality of housing stock in the city will be maintained, and perhaps enhanced—especially as it ages to 100 years and more. The carelessness I witnessed in what now passes for building inspection in Cleveland Heights bodes ill for the future of this city that I love. Let us hope that perhaps a new Cleveland Heights mayor will move to reinstate a true building department—and terminate an outsourced department of box-checking and paper passing.

Dean Sieck

Dean Sieck is a 45-year Cleveland Heights resident. He's a former board member and president of HRRC (then FHC Housing), and former member of Forest Hill Homeowners Executive and Standards committees. A member of Forest Hill Church, he enjoys gardening, canning and writing poems.

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Volume 14, Issue 1, Posted 8:31 PM, 12.21.2020