Building Codes once again under consideration

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Opting into the state building codes was the chief topic of discussion at Monday night's meeting of county commissioners in committees.
Under the Community Development committee, Tim Planer, Residential Building Inspection Supervisor, State of Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, presented new information to the commissioners present.
He informed commissioners that it had recently come to light that inspections were being conducted on some government funded building projects in counties that had voted to opt out of the state building codes program and did not have their own building codes. Planer told commissioners that these inspections violated state law.
The reason this was once again a topic to be discussed by commissioners is because the HOME Grant for $350,000 that the county received has an inspection of work performed as a condition of the grant. If Scott County does not decide to opt into the state building codes program, the grant cannot be utilized by the county.
Mary Ann Perdue informed commissioners that seven applications had been received and approved to have work done under the grant.
It should also be noted that home loans such has FHA, Rural, etc. that require inspections as part of their loan approval cannot be obtained in counties with no building codes.
If the commissioners decide to opt into the program, all future construction will have to be done by state licensed contractors and building permits will be required. Planer pointed out to commissioners that the permit would not cost the county any money, but on a $100,001-150,000 new build, the permit fee would be $500 and would be paid by the contractor or homeowner.
Several commissioners voiced their opinion that when the state instituted the program in 2010, they should have just implemented it statewide. Planer stated that the original intent was to do just that, but there was so much backlash that the law had to include the 'opt out' option so that local governments could make their own decision on the program.
Another interesting bit of information provided by Planer was that under state law, an unlicensed contractor cannot legally charge more than $25,000 for any work performed. It was then jokingly stated that someone could have a $100,000+ home built and write the contractor a $25,000 check. Planer then said that he believes legally that it could be done and the unlicensed contractor would have no way to legally get the additional funds.
Several commissioners asked what the cost was for a contractor to become licensed in the state, but Planer was honest and stated that he had no idea, as it was not his area.
When asked how much additional cost this would add to new construction, Planer was not able to provide any numbers.
The commissioners then asked Randall Kidd, an unlicensed contractor that happened to be present for another matter, what his opinion was, he told commissioners that he has been doing construction for years and he takes pride in his work and the quality he provides. He did agree that contractors that had to become licensed would have to pass that cost on to the homeowner.
The last time the issue of building codes was discussed was in September of 2015, since the vote to opt out has to be readdressed after every 4 year election cycle. Planer appeared before commissioners at that time as well.
Commissioners eventually voted to remain 'opted out' of the program.
From the presentation back in 2015, if the county votes to opt into the program, it would currently require 3 inspections: foundation, rough-in, and final.
The goal is to have inspections of foundations within 1 business day of notification and all other inspections within 3 business days.
Under the plan, there is no requirement to submit building plans and 1 or 2 family dwellings are not required to have fire sprinkler systems. 3 unit townhomes less than 5000 sq. ft. may be separated by 2 hour fire barriers or have a sprinkler system.
Building contractors are required to be state licensed or homeowners may build their own home once every 2 years without having to be licensed.
The major benefits of opting into the program are that it establishes minimum construction standards, levels the playing field among contractors (unlicensed can't underbid licensed) and results in the issuing of a Certificate of Occupancy which makes it easier to close on a mortgage.
The biggest negatives are that many contractors in Scott County are unlicensed and they would be required to become licensed to continue building in the county and the unknown additional cost to homeowner to have homes built or additions added.
In the end, the committee passed a motion to send a resolution for the county to opt into the program to the full board in two weeks. This will give commissioners time to decide how they stand on the matter. Adoption of the resolution will only require a majority vote, unlike the vote to opt out which required a 2/3rds approval.
The Emergency Services committee heard a request form Ambulance Director Jim Reed to begin the bid process for 1 or 2 ambulance remounts and also allow him to look around for another used ambulance. He explained to commissioners the impact of the closure of the hospital on wear and tear of the ambulances. He stated that the ambulance service still hasn't recovered from the first closure and the effects of the second closure will not be felt immediately.
The committee approved a motion for the request to be presented to the Finance Committee that meets next Monday.
Under the Building & Grounds committee, the commissioners discussed a letter received from Kidd Construction concerning a problem that had occurred at the Recycling Center. It seemed that construction of a concrete pad and wall were the issue. Randall Kidd told commissioners that his work met the specs submitted, i.e. 40 foot pad. After the work was completed, it was stated that the work was not what they wanted and it wouldn't work as currently done.
The letter took issue with the way Kidd was allegedly treated by County Mayor Dale Perdue when discussing the completed work on the telephone.
In the end, the committee made a motion to have a resolution drafted for full board approval that would require any work done to improve county owned property be presented to the commissioners for approval, no matter where the funds were coming from to pay for the project.
The Budget committee quickly approved the two budget amendments presented to go to the full board for approval.
The Intergovernmental committee took up the issue of a county permit on ATVs in addition to the state fee. County Attorney John Beaty told commissioners that his recent conversation with Senator Yager led him to recommend that the county proceed with a Private Act and that it be kept simple.
The fee was discussed and it was agreed that a fee of $10 for out-of-county and $4 for in-county added to the temporary state permits would balance out the burden.
A motion was made and approved to send the matter to the full board.
The last item heard by commissioners was a issue with the way Bereavement Leave was being handled. Deputy Jared Jeffers stated that the policy states '3 working days', yet it is widely interpreted as 24 hours. The problem with this is that not all county employees work 8 hour days. Those that work 10 or 12 hour days have to make up the difference between the 24 hours and 30/36 hours that 3 days equals for them.
Commissioners agreed to look into the issue further.
The commissioners next meet on Monday November 21st starting at 6 p.m.

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