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TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Programs with dubious benefits should be axed

The lightning rods at City Hall must run directly into the Building Department.

Why else would Director Jimmy Brothers and his staff be constantly the source of unhappiness for builders and developers?

The Building Department was a favorite target for most candidates for mayor and city council in last summer's municipal election. The city needs change, they said, to make development here more attractive.

But residents should be slow to cheer change because the Building Department basically protects what for most of them are their biggest investments, their homes.

That, however, apparently doesn't extend to two insurance programs Mr. Brothers says the department is dropping. He's doing so for a legitimate reason: The costs outweight the benefits. In one case, he's been unable to document benefits.

He plans to drop the flood insurance program that may or may not save affected homeowners 5 percent on their policy. He's also going to drop a building code program that appears to duplicate work his department already does.

Someone apparently saw merit in the programs at some point, but with Mayor Don Kyle still trying to balance the budget, the $50,000 or so the insurance program expense to the city dictated a closer look at the cost-benefit ratio.

Mr. Brothers says the city can essentially accomplish the same goals without the two programs. If that's true, cutting them is the responsible thing to do.

Still, paying attention to detail is vital to maintaining and improving the city's livability. The Building Department is central to our present and future. Perhaps that is the reason it attracts so much attention.

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