Contractors request building inspections
Around 10 local building contractors asked the Morgan County Commissioners to establish a building inspection process in Morgan County. The request was made at a recent County Commission meeting.
Contractors had talked amongst themselves and informally as a group about the need to have building codes enforced, said Mike McKechnie of Mountain View Builders.
They wanted to see if there was money available in the county budget to develop a building inspection program and were asking how to get one started.
The group wanted to bring all the county builders up to the same standards, which is the International Residential Code (IRC) that was adopted by the West Virginia legislature. The code has been in place for years, but we have not had county-supported inspectors to enforce it, said McKechnie.
No building inspections
There are no building inspections in Morgan County, noted Allen Truax of Double T. Homes, Inc. Local builders felt that a building inspection process would benefit the community and homeowners.
The majority of county contractors support beginning a building inspection program, said Truax. Other contractors that backed the idea were unable to attend the County Commission meeting.
Some buildings had not been built according to code. A lot of construction is being done without permits, said Truax. Surrounding counties have inspection processes in place. With an inspection program, building inspectors would look over plans and notice details like a foundation needing to be larger, said Truax.
How to fund it
County Commissioner Tommy Swaim
was open to a building inspection process, but asked the builders how they proposed to fund it.
The builders did not want to burden the taxpayer with the cost of implementing a building inspection program. They felt it could be built into the permitting process where the permitting fees would pay for the program.
Some counties had building inspection fees based on appraisals. The fee couldn't be so high that it couldn't be done, said Swaim.
Swaim was opposed to the idea if it would
add $1,000 to $1,500 to the cost of a house.
The cost of the building inspection program would be passed along to the homeowner.
Commercial fees would be much higher.
The county had 225 home building permits last year and 15 commercial building permits, Swaim said.
Protecting the homeowner
Truax felt that homeowners would be glad to know that their home was built to code and done right. The inspection process would give homeowners more protection and peace of mind, he said.
The only recourse for homeowners if they have problems stemming from construction is to go to court, said County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson.
County Commissioner Glen Stotler asked about the turnaround time for building plans and approval. Berkeley County usually had a backlog. It takes around eight weeks to get a permit to build there, said Swaim.
Hampshire County has a 48-hour turnaround and had two field inspectors, he said. If the county got a system in place to handle building inspection, permits could be handled in a timely manner since this is a small county, said Stotler. Contractors said they usually schedule their work around how far behind permit officials are in their paperwork.
McKechnie saw the inspections as a type of continuing education program for builders. They would be learning from inspectors the best way to bring their project up to acceptable standards, he said.
Hampshire County is very pleased with their building inspection program, said Swaim. There was a consensus that the inspection program should fit Morgan County needs and not just be copied from a neighboring county.
Plans were made to take the idea to the Morgan County Planning Commission and to select a committee of one County Commissioner and four builders. They would work with County Planner Alma Gorse and the Planning Commission to create a building inspection program. A County Commissioner has not yet been appointed to serve on the committee.
McKechnie, Truax, Chuck Ganoe of Ganoe Construction and Richard Haynes of R.J. Haynes Contracting have volunteered to be the building contractor representatives on the committee. Other contractors will provide input at their meetings, once the committee is established.
It would be later discussed whether an inspector position would be created within the county or whether the county would contract the work. Truax felt that possibly a structural engineer was needed to do the inspections.
With the growth that's coming, there needed to be some controls in place, Truax said. He foresaw an inspection process slowly being phased in for the first few years. The goal was for all contractors to "be building off the same standards, the way it should be built," said Truax.
Some building contractors deliberately take shortcuts, which keeps down their prices, said Larry Robinson of Twin Mountain Construction. When something falls down or caves in, it gives all contractors a bad name, he said.
The 768-page IRC code is so complicated that contractors can also make mistakes, added Robinson. He thought it would be helpful to have someone else looking over their shoulders.
There's a tremendous amount of interest in Morgan County from builders in other counties, said Robinson. There's no plan with teeth or protection to keep growth from spiraling out of control, he felt. As more growth is coming, the group wanted to ensure that construction is being done right.