City official resigns without warning

Kingman Fire Chief Jake Rhoades

Kingman Fire Chief Jake Rhoades

KINGMAN – Jim McErlean, City of Kingman Building Department official, has resigned from his position six months after the department was folded into the Kingman Fire Department.

Kingman Fire Chief Jake Rhoades reportedly made the decision to fire McErlean, though he would not disclose reasons for the action.

“As far as any details or specific information, I am not at liberty to discuss as it is a personnel issue,” Rhoades said in an email to the Daily Miner. “Sorry, I cannot give you any additional information.”

Whether McErlean’s position will be filled is unknown at this time, Rhoades added. He had been with the city for 19 years.

City Manager John Dougherty said he received McErlean’s resignation Monday evening.

“Arizona is an at-will state, so as long as the documentation is in order, anyone can be dismissed with proper justification and documentation,” Dougherty said via email.

City Attorney Carl Cooper said McErlean was in the process of being terminated when he submitted his letter of resignation.

McErlean was often criticized by local business owners, real estate agents and developers for being difficult to work with regarding building permits, inspections and certifications.

They said McErlean was too rigid in his interpretation of specific volumes of the International Building Code, making it cost-prohibitive to bring older buildings in downtown Kingman up to code.

Angela Patterson ran into obstacles with the city when she relocated her coffee shop, Beale Street Brews, in 2015 from the Central Commercial Building to a former bank building at 510 E. Beale St.

It took her months to reopen the business because of complications regarding architectural plans and building requirements. She had to hire an architect to submit drawings on a building in existence since the 1960s, which added $4,000 to her renovation costs.

Wei Lin said he would have never bought the former Scotty’s Broasted Chicken restaurant on Stockton Hill Road if he’d known about the problems he was going to encounter with the city to open Lin’s Little China restaurant. He had to jackhammer through the concrete kitchen floor to install a vent for the septic system.

McErlean said he understands owners and developers want to renovate buildings with the least amount of capital investment, but the work has to be done by certified architects, engineers and contractors, and the finished product must meet code for structural integrity and safety.

“People just move in and get a business license,” McErlean told the Daily Miner in a 2015 interview. “We come in and inspect and say, ‘You need to do this, this and this.’ But unfortunately, people found out after they invested time and money that they’re not in compliance, and that’s sad.”

In January, city and fire officials met with contractors to lay out a “one-stop” process for obtaining building permits and plan approvals.

Keith Eaton, deputy fire chief for Kingman Fire Department, was placed in charge of the building department, essentially becoming McErlean’s boss.

Eaton said he wanted to alleviate the “disconnect” between city building officials and contractors when they’re dealing with renovations of older buildings in downtown Kingman that are noncompliant with the IBC.

Four building inspectors and a permit technician moved from City Hall to the fire department’s administration building.