BY JIM DOOLEY – Some 4,000 elevators in Hawaii are overdue for safety inspections and to clear the backlog, the state must double the number of inspectors now on staff, lawmakers heard today.

But hiring new inspectors will be difficult because the starting salary of a state inspector is $42,000, while their counterparts in the private sector are paid $50 per hour and earn as much as $110,00 annually before overtime.

So officials from the state Department of Labor say they will probably ask the Legislature in January to approve steep new increases in elevator inspection and permit fees to pay for sharp increases in the compensation of inspectors.

Dwight Takamine

That testimony was delivered by Labor Department Director Dwight Takamine and Jennifer Shishido, manager of the boiler/elevator inspection office.

A similar backlog of safety inspections of boilers has also built up around the state and the same pay disparity applies, said Keith Rudolph, chief boiler inspector.

“I could go out in private industry tomorrow and get a $30,000 raise,” Rudolph told members of the state House Committee on Labor and Public Employment.

Committee chairman Rep. Karl Rhoads, D-28th (Palama, Downtown, Chinatown, Sheridan) congratulated Rudolph on his commitment to public service.

Rep. Karl Rhoads
Rep. Karl Rhoads

Various speakers told the committee that the backlog numbers are not a cause for alarm.

Elevators and boilers around the state are regularly serviced and maintained by their owners and there has not been an elevator-related fatality here since 1992.

But Takamine told the committee the Abercrombie administration is committed to clearing the inspection backlog.

“Public safety is a top priority,” he said.

The backlog can have adverse economic effects when equipment is shut down, or new equipment can’t be put in operation, because of delays in permitting and inspections, witnesses said.

The department is working with private industry and with the public employees labor union to impose new fees which will flow into a special fund that will increase salaries for state inspectors, witnesses told the committee.

The department is also exploring the possibility of turning over inspections to private third parties, but that solution would require the state to pay the higher prevailing wages in the private sector, witnesses said.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. “I could go out in private industry tomorrow and get a $30,000 raise,” Rudolph told members of the state House Committee on Labor and Public Employment.

    Why do so many public employees, many of whom have never had to compete in the private sector, think that? A starting “inspector” salary of $42,000 with very generous benefits is exceptional, and there are many local people who would leap at the opportunity to train in these fields. The fact is that public employee compensation levels far exceed those in the real world. This testimony is simply a cover for permit and inspection fee increases.

    • Private sector elevator jobs pay $110,000 before overtime. State pays $42.000. The retirees from the private sector are the only ones qualified to perform the intensive inspection process. And since they already have benefits from their elevator retirement, typically don’t accept any from the state. So if you want to “leap” into this job, join the trade, get the skills, and come on down.

  2. At all the stages of student life, the students need proper counselling services. All the students are not mentally relaxed and stable. They may pretend of being so but may be suffering from some kinds of tensions and problems.

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