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February 03, 2015

Report: Fixing L&I will take $13.9M and 110 new workers

The recommendations are in answer to a deadly building collapse in Center City in 2013

Government Public Safety
Carroll - City Hall and Benjamin Franklin Parkway Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia City Hall from the Parkway.

The Nutter administration said in a recently released report it will take $13.9 million and 110 new city employees to fix the city's Department of Licensing and Inspection (L&I), which was deemed underfunded, short of resources and laden with too many responsibilities.

The report, which detailed on Monday, comes after an independent committee's suggestions that were presented in October in response to 2013's collapse of the Salvation Army building on Market Street in Center City which killed six and injured 13.

The collapse of that building occurred during the demolition of an adjacent building. The demolition site was inspected by L&I officials three times — including once due to a complaint that specifically mentioned concerns about a collapse.

The committee gave a list of 37 steps to reform L&I. The three major changes, according to the city's blog, were splitting the department into two — a Department of Buildings and a Department of Business Compliance; doubling the number of L&I inspectors; and transferring fire safety inspections of buildings to the Fire Department.

Dividing L&I is unlikely as it would necessitate a change in the City Charter, reports.

The committee's proposal did not detail how L&I would secure funds or implement the fixes — that responsibility was given to a committee made up of Commissioner Carlton Williams and 23 other administration officials. The Building Safety Oversight Board, led by former Deputy Mayor Michael Nadol, will give final recommendations to Mayor Michael Nutter.

The Nutter administration's "L&I 2015 Plan for a Safer City" seeks to add 83 new hires to the agency and 27 to other city agencies — including the Fire Department. L&I currently employs about 300.

L&I operates on a $27.6 million annual budget. Most of the additional $13.9 million proposed would go toward new hires, according to

$4.1 million to hire 35 building inspectors, including electrical and plumbing inspectors and a crane inspector, and to buy new cars and equipment for them.

$1.7 million to buy a vacant property management system and hire 10 staffers who would focus on vacant properties.

$1.7 million to hire 17 staffers to work in an expanded Fire Code Unit.

$2.7 million for the Fire Department to hire 15 fire inspectors and provide additional training to existing staff.

Nadol said any changes may be implemented over several years. The city is prioritizing the agency's 2016 budget, he said. Nutter is scheduled to give a budget address for the city on March 5.