Berne restructures code enforcement office to hire three building inspectors

The Enterprise – Noah Zweifel

Chance Townsend speaks at a 2020 Berne Town Board meeting. Townsend gave up 10 of his allotted 56 biweekly hours to make room for three new building inspectors who were hired to replace James Bushnell, who resigned earlier this year.

BERNE — While reviewing three candidates for an open building-inspector position, Berne Town Board member Leo Vane suggested to his colleagues that they make two hires instead of one, splitting the available hours between the new employees. 

By the end of the discussion, the board decided to hire all three candidates.

The three men — Kevin Flensted, Carl Tricholo, and Jonathan Heigel — will share 58 hours biweekly as they perform a job formerly held by one man, James Bushnell, who resigned earlier this year. 

Berne’s 2021 budget had allotted 46 hours biweekly to the building inspector, who earns $19 per hour. The town board had voted to increase the number of hours to 48 when it was prepared to hire two employees, but then added 10 more after the town’s code enforcement officer, Chance Townsend, offered to give up 10 of his allotted 56 biweekly hours to make room for all three candidates without requiring a substantial change to the budget.

Townsend earns $25 an hour. 

Townsend said at the April 14 meeting that he was willing to give up his hours since, as a part-time employee for the town, he isn’t eligible for the types of benefits he wants and would prefer to spend more time on private ventures.

He also said that upping the number of certified code-enforcement staff from two to four would allow for smoother transitions in the event that he or a building inspector leave their position. 

Townsend’s hours were a point of contention in 2018 when he requested that he be made full-time, which the Democratic-majority board at the time didn’t agree with. An outside labor consultant backed them up, saying that the workload in a town the size of Berne — with a population of less than 3,000 — didn’t require more than 15 hours weekly.

Nevertheless, the board increased Townsend’s weekly hours to about 30, but Townsend still resigned the following year, coming back only after board control went to the GOP in 2020. The 2021 budget saw Townsend’s salary increase from $32,500 to $40,300, a 24-percent raise. 


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