DeKalb schools hire fire marshal for inspections

DeKalb County staff shortages have left the school system struggling to get all of its buildings inspected by the start of classes next month, district officials say.

The school board voted 8-0 Monday night to pay an additional $69,000 to its construction manager, Parsons Corp. and Jacobs Engineering Inc., for a fire marshal.

“The county is not going to provide these fire marshal services because of their [staffing] situation,” board member Don McChesney said. “This is critical to us getting our buildings open on time.”

School officials said early retirements caused the staff shortages. About 800 DeKalb workers left through an early retirement program in May that was designed to save the county money.

"The county did lose inspectors during the early retirement, but the county's fire marshals office has not ceased inspections when it comes to the schools," county spokeswoman Shelia Edwards said Tuesday.

On Monday night, the school board voted to temporarily hire a retired county inspector to review 31 school construction projects. This will allow the school system to make sure it meets all fire codes before requesting a county permit, said Barbara Colman, the district’s interim capital improvement program operations officer.

“He will make sure everything is up to standard so the county will just have to sign off on the permits. It will save a lot of time,” Colman said.

The $69,000 will be paid to project manager Parsons, who will hire the inspector from July to November, Colman said. That is in addition to just over $6 million the school system is paying Parsons in a one-year contract that runs until Dec. 12.

In May, the board approved a budget with $104 million in cuts, including laying off 289 school employees.