Supervisor-elect holds meeting on building codes

Published 4:52 pm Friday, December 14, 2007

The crowd was split in its opinions on building codes at a meeting called by threePearl River County Supervisors-elect at the Pearl River Central high school cafeteria Thursday night to get opinions about the current county building codes.

Some builders want to keep the codes and the head of the county home builders association said many mortgage companies also want homes they finance to be built to code.

The county’s chief building inspector, Kirk Pichon, also spelled out some of his concerns with changes in the codes being proposed by at supervisor-elelct Hudson Holliday.

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The three supervisors-elect opened the meeting spelling out some of their opposition to the codes.

“I hope no one thinks we’re jumping the gun, but we want to be up to speed when Jan. 7th gets here. We’ve been working together several months already … It’s not our intention to make the current board look bad. It’s our intention to change the way the county is handled, and we hope this is the first of many meetings like this. Our goal is to keep everyone informed and listen to what people have to say,” said District IV supervisor-elect Patrick Lee.

“The attendance at this meeting tonight shows interest in the county and in the next level. This meeting is not to get rid of building codes, but to adjust the codes to what’s best for the county. … The economic state of the county is terrible and it all has to do with the building codes and fees,” said District V supervisor-elect Sandy Kane Smith.

“People don’t feel good about what’s going on in the county… We’re not worried about the past. We’re worried about the future and how to move forward… This meeting needs to be constructive. It needs to be about what you want to see. Building codes were a hot topic of discussion and cussing when I was out on the campaign trail,” said District III supervisor-elect Holliday.

Holliday said he had three points to discuss at the meeting. “Number one is reducing the codes, the number of inspections and the number of inspectors making those inspections. Number two is expanding the number and types of exemptions to the building codes. Number three is what the fees should be.”

Holliday said he believed the codes that the county has adopted are too strict and are designed more for northern states than for this area.

“We all drove here in cars tonight. If we had to have our cars built to the same level as the building codes, we’d have driven here in NASCAR race cars,” Holliday said.

Holliday asked County Chief Building Inspector Pichon to come forward to answer any questions that residents have about building codes, and where they came from.

“It’s my responsibility to run the department and enforce the codes that the county adopted. I did not bring the codes with me when I came. I cannot change these codes myself. These codes are basically laws that I have to enforce,” Pichon said. “These codes are the minimum standard for homebuilding.”

One concerned citizen said he felt the building codes were an infringement upon his Constitutional rights.

“Aren’t you given freedom of rights to do what you want with your own land? I object to anyone telling me what I can build on my farm. I don’t need to be restricted to what I can do on my property. The Constitution guarantees me life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the current board has taken that away,” the individual said.

“Building codes have moved home ownership further away for some people. Between fees and additional things, the county has raised the price of homes approximately $10,000. I know we can back off of some of these codes. … I’m not saying do away with these codes completely. When I was on the campaign trail, I did not meet anyone who wanted to completely get rid of the codes. We’re just saying let’s come back to the middle,” Holliday said.

Other citizens asked if some of the building codes could be rescinded or unadopted, or if the county could opt out of the building codes.

“The time to opt out of the codes has passed, and we can’t opt out. We can’t rescind them, but we can change them and modify them,” Holliday said.

Charles Lee, president of the Pearl River County Homebuilders Association, said he had asked an attorney for an official opinion about the building codes.

“Builders are required to have a license to do work for resale. You have to adhere to building codes for a license. Mortgage companies are balking if homes aren’t built to codes. Insurance companies want safe, code-built homes,” Lee said.

Holliday said he believes only three inspections should be required during the building of a home, and that inspectors should be qualified to inspect all aspects of a home.

“The three inspections should be one, before you pour the concrete. The second should be at black-in. The third should be at completion. That should be it. We currently have between 12 and 16 inspections for a new home. That’s way too many. … Why do we need inspections of a power pole?” Holliday asked.

One builder commented that the reason for inspection of the power pole is because he knew subcontractors that had been electrocuted on temporary power poles.

“Yeah, and people have been hit by meteorites too,” Holliday said. “I don’t know how we have survived in this county this long without building codes.”

Holliday asked Pichon if three inspections would be feasible.

“In my opinion, no, that would not be enough inspections. However, we disagree on quite a few positions,” Pichon told Holliday. “In my opinion, it’s not feasible to have fewer inspectors. It’s very difficult to train in three or four different disciplines, so you can send out one individual on a multimedia inspection. That’s a liability for the county.”

Holliday said that people should be given more credit for personal responsibility when building homes.

“There has to be common sense. This is not brain surgery. I don’t have a problem protecting people who want the county to help them, but you have to be responsible for yourself,” Holliday said.

Doreen Early, owner of Shelton Builders, said she fully supports building codes and thinks they should be implemented across the board with no exemptions.

“If I have to comply with these codes to keep my license, then why shouldn’t everyone else who builds a home have to comply with the same codes to keep these homes at a safe standard?” Early asked.

“Ma’am, I understand you really want building codes, and maybe you need someone to come out and tell you how to build your house, but not everyone does,” Holliday said to Early.