JUNEAU (AP) -- The state Labor Department hopes to deal with a backlog of elevator and boiler inspections through a bill that passed the House on Wednesday.
The bill makes a change in how funds are accounted for so the department can keep the fees it charges for inspections, instead of putting it into the state's general fund.
The money would be used to hire more inspectors, said Rebecca Nance Gamez, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Gamez said about 6,000 boilers or pressure vessels in public buildings are overdue for inspection, which is a public safety risk.
''We've felt really fortunate that we haven't had any catastrophe in boiler inspections in the last few years,'' Gamez said.
Currently, the department collects about $1 million in fees, but the money goes into the general fund, and the Legislature puts only about $700,000 of it back into the inspections program.
Putting the fee money into a building safety fund -- instead of the general fund -- makes it more likely the money will be spent for the inspection program, Gamez said.
Gamez said in the mid-1990s the state had 12 electrical, elevator or boiler and pressure vessel inspectors. That has dropped to six inspectors due to budget cuts.
By adding four more inspectors, the department hopes to eliminate its backlog in about two years, she said.
The extra inspectors should pay for themselves because they will be able to do more inspections, for which fees are charged, Gamez said.
House Bill 262 passed the House 36-0. It now goes to the Senate.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.