Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Favre Suggests Consolidation

Favre urges merging permit departments
BAY ST. LOUIS - Among a crowd that spilled outside Tuesday night, two contractors stood up to defend embattled building official Bill Carrigee on his final day as head of the city's permit department.
Local contractor Mike Bell blasted Councilman Jim Thriffiley, accusing the state's longest concurrently serving councilman of "running Bill Carrigee out of town."
"Regardless of what people think of Mr. Carrigee," Bell said, "he was still an asset to this city."
Carrigee officially resigned Tuesday, ending more than a decade as the city's top building inspector just three days after published reports that Hancock County recently paid him $389,474 for work his company was doing for the county on the side.
"Mr. Carrigee's decision to resign was his decision, no one on this board made him leave," Thriffiley said. "The city has spent tens of thousands of dollars educating him and he chose to leave on his own."
Carrigee had become one of the most qualified building officials in Mississippi. He was the 59th person in the nation certified as a floodplain manager and much of his education was funded by the city.
Carrigee told the Sun Herald last week he did not moonlight on city time, nor did he use a city vehicle. Thriffiley said residents have complained for months about the sluggish process of getting a building permit.
"People have asked me how he could be working for us and still be doing all this work for the county," Thriffiley said.
Since Katrina damaged or destroyed more than half of the city's homes, locals cram into the short-staffed building department almost daily seeking approval to rebuild. The department has issued more than 15,000 permits since the storm, far more than double what it turned out last year.
Mayor Eddie Favre read from a prepared statement, addressing what he called an "unsubstantiated attack on the credibility of city employees."
"For those who have been on a mission of encouraging the resignation of Bill Carrigee," Favre said, "you have finally succeeded."
Favre said the "real losers in this situation" are the city's residents and he pleaded with the council to refocus its efforts on rebuilding Bay St. Louis.
Favre said Carrigee has offered his company's services to the city on a contract basis, at a rate of $28 per hour. The mayor suggested the council push to merge the building department with the offices in the county and Waveland as a way to fill the void.


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