Shutdown would halt construction projects, strand workersby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — If lawmakers can't agree on a budget by Friday, a shutdown would also suspend routine state electrical inspections, required by law for nearly all construction projects. Contractors say the effect of delayed electrical inspections will ripple across the economy.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry says it will have "very limited construction industry inspection services, related to imminent danger and catastrophic situations," Department spokesman James Honerman says inspections will stop in most, but not all, of Minnesota.
"In some local governments around the state, approximately forty of them, they do have authority to conduct electrical inspections," said Honerman. "The Department of Labor and Industry will not be providing any routine electrical inspections using its contracted inspectors."
A Ramsey County judge today instructed the state to fund only "critical core functions" during a government shutdown.
The summer is peak season for construction in Minnesota. Delays and job loss caused by suspension of electrical inspections would add additional hardship for construction companies and their workers.
In Mankato, electrical contractor Kenny Javens said an apartment building he helped remodel is waiting for its final electrical inspection before residents are allowed to return. Mankato doesn't have city electrical inspectors.
Contractors rely on the 75 state inspectors to check their work. Most projects require two inspections. Workers last year conducted 275,000 required electrical inspections through the state. "People are ready to move in, and if we can't get a final inspection they may not get a certificate of occupancy, so that could be a problem," said Javens.
Besides the apartment building remodeling, Javens' jobs this summer include work at Minnesota State University Mankato.
Javens says if state inspectors aren't available, it will affect some of his 25 employees.
"We can't afford to keep them on the payroll just to have them hanging around," said Javens. "We don't have anyplace else for them to go so we have to lay them off which we definitely don't want to do."
Home construction projects typically require at least two electrical inspections, one at the beginning of a project and another at the end. Delay of a project's first inspection means other workers, including those who put in walls, floors and ceilings, won't be able to finish their work, said Mike Swanson, vice president of Twin Cities housing developer Rottlund Homes.
"Everything's going to come to a screeching halt because you have got to have that inspection and it's not only at the end of the process," said Swanson.
Judy Rubin is president of the Minnesota Electrical Association, a trade group representing more than 400 electrical contractors. Rubin says the state inspectors check electrical work on projects of all scope, from the "homeowner who is just doing a remodeling job, all the way up to heavy highway work and heavy-duty construction work on schools and industrial projects."
Responsibility for electrical inspection differs across the Twin Cities. Minneapolis, the state's largest city, relies on state inspectors. St. Paul and many of the larger suburbs have their own electrical inspectors.
A good share of their home construction won't be immediately affected because many of the homes they're building at this point are in suburbs with their own inspectors, said Swanson, of Rottlund Homes.