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Slump Takes Toll On County Jobs Building Department Lays Off Four After 40 Percent Drop In Permits

A dramatic drop in new home construction forced the Spokane County building department to abolish four jobs.

The layoffs are not related to a countywide downsizing, said Mark Holman, assistant director of building and planning.

“We’re an enterprise fund. We basically operate off the revenues ($4 million a year through permit fees) we bring in,” Holman said. “When times are slower, we’re in the layoff mode.”

Building permits for construction of new homes are down to 511 this year, compared to 844 for the same period in 1994. The 40 percent drop, Holman said, is most likely due to interest rates that reached 9.25 percent last December.

Losing jobs will be planner Lorne Lakshas, building technician Dawn Dompier, office assistant Jack Allison and building/fire prevention inspector Marc Straub.

Lakshas, however, will be moved to the planning department because of her union seniority. She will bump out planner Kenneth Kuhn, who was the last hired.

It’s not known when the layoffs will be effective.

The shakeup in the planning department continues.

John Mercer, whose growth management position was eliminated last month, accepted the assistant planning director’s job.

He’ll come back July 24 to replace Gary Fergen, who resigned last week to become director of planning for Pend Oreille County.

On June 9, county commissioners also abolished the jobs of planning director Wally Hubbard and one of his lieutenants, Steve Horobiowski. Combined with Mercer’s job, taxpayers saved $230,000 in salary and benefits, county officials said.

County Commission Chairman Phil Harris personally offered Mercer a new job last Friday night after Fergen’s surprise resignation.

“It feels good” to be back, said Mercer, 46, who will earn $55,200 a year. “This unemployment isn’t all it’s talked up to be. I like working. I want to make a contribution.”

, DataTimes