Town proposes building inspector on an on-call basis

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JAY — The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Monday night to have a town building inspector do inspections and be on call.

The town is in the midst of preparing an administrative ordinance to enforce the state’s building code. Voters will have the final say on Tuesday, June 12, at the polls. If they vote down Jay’s administrative ordinance, they will be left with the town having to follow the state’s rules to enforce it.

Jay is one of several towns in the state that will be required as of July 1 to put a building permit system in place and have an inspector look over structures to determine if builders are following the new Maine Uniform Building & Energy Code enacted by the Legislature.

Initially it was going to be for towns with 2,000 or more residents but it changed to towns with 4,000 or more residents. Jay has about 4,885 residents.

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Other towns with a building permit system in place as of Dec. 1, 2010, have already started enforcing the new code. Jay begins on July 1.

The code itself cannot be changed, Code Enforcement Officer Shiloh LaFreniere said.

The only items that the town would have a say in are the administrative pieces: permits, fees, enforcement, appeals and similar items.

The town basically has three choices regarding administration of the code, LaFreniere said.

Property owners could be required to hire a third-party inspection and issue a report to the town before an occupancy permit could be issued. The town could set up a system to use a third-party inspector who is under contract with the town. Or the town could employ a building inspector.

Livermore Code Enforcement Officer Richard Marble, who was invited to the meeting, gave a brief explanation of what would require an inspection under the state code and what would not. A new accessory structure more than 200 square feet, such as a shed, he said, would require a permit. If it was less than 200 square feet it wouldn’t need a permit, he said.

Building a new structure or addition that triggers inspections, he said, could mean six to eight, maybe more of them during the various stages of construction.

A new garage would need an inspection, but one with a living area over it would mean more of them. He estimated it would cost $75 per inspection.

Anything that is being built, repaired or altered would have to follow the new code, Marble said, regardless of whether a permit is needed.

“The building code is in effect right now,” Marble said, but because the town has 4,000 or more residents and didn’t have a prior building permit system following a code, it does not need to enforce it until July 1.

To do painting, papering, cabinets or countertops, people would not have to worry about a permit, he said.

The intent of the building code is not to make people jump through hoops, he said, “It is about safety.”

Discussion on the matter of building inspector included costs to the town and the homeowner, continuity of inspections, using third-party inspectors, and stifling growth.

Resident James Butler Jr. suggested that the code enforcement officer also be the building inspector.

Town Manager Ruth Cushman said LaFreniere’s position has been revamped to put in 16 to 20 hours into the town’s Finance Department and the remainder of hours into code enforcement, so she would no longer have the flexibility or time to do building inspections.

“A town of this size should have a full-time code enforcement officer,” Butler said.

Board Chairman Steve McCourt, who said he was not in favor of a building code, said that if the town paid for the inspector, it would help the whole town.

“I think somewhere the town should absorb some of the” expense, McCourt said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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