Building permit technicians among first in state to receive certification

Published 4:33 pm Thursday, July 12, 2007

Two Pearl River County Permit Technicians with the Planning and Development Department have received International Code Council certification.

Ruth Preston and Victoria Pepitone had been studying for the certification exam since February. They took the exam on July 9, but it took about two weeks for them to receive the results.

“That was a long two weeks, but after we found out we had passed, it was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders,” Preston said.

Along with one technician in Vicksburg, they are the first people in the State of Mississippi to pass the International Code Council written examination for permit technicians.

When asked how it felt to be one of only three people in the state to have passed the exam, Pepitone, who has been with the county for just over a year, said, “It feels wonderful.”

Preston, whose first anniversary with the county falls at the end of July, said, “I was surprised when I learned I was one of only three. I’m humbled by it. I’m proud that we’ve accomplished this.”

The two-hour, 60-question exam covered material on four topics: Basic Code Enforcement, International Building Codes, Legal Aspects of Building Codes, and International Zoning.

“It (the exam) was difficult because it asked tricky questions. One word could change the meaning of the whole question. It was made to trip you up,” said Preston.

Julia Anderson, a planner with the Planning and Development Office, said the county hopes to have all technicians and inspectors certified within the next year. Having certified technicians and inspectors will lower insurance rates in the unincorporated areas of the county, Anderson said.

There is one other permit technician in the county who will take the exam at the end of this month, Anderson said.

County Chief Building Inspector Kirk Pichon said the building office currently has four inspectors, a plans examiner and a code enforcement officer that need certification. Each of these employees is in the process of earning certification, and some have already taken some of the examinations, but none of them have finished the entire course of exams.

There are four certification tests the inspectors must take, each with a residential level of certification. Pichon, who has 26 certifications, said the certification tests are very difficult, each one lasting approximately two hours.

The county also will be regularly rated by Mississippi State Rating Bureau according to the Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule , Anderson said. A major factor in this rating is the number of certified staff a building code program employs. The county currently is rated at one on a scale of one to 10, but the county hopes to be reevaluated once the employees receive their certifications and receive a higher rating after the reevaluation, Anderson said.