Building Codes Work Session
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners met tonight for a work session to discuss county building inspections. The recently passed Tennessee Clean Energy Future Act requires the Board of Commissioners to consider the handling of building inspections for one and two family residences. In essence, the act requires the County to adopt one of the following three measures.
· Do Nothing – Mr. Jim Pillow, Assistant Commissioner from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, was present to discuss this option. If the Board of Commissioners does not act, beginning October 1st the State of Tennessee would begin enforcing the 2009 International Residential Codes (IRC) here in CumberlandCounty, excluding the code requirement for sprinklers. The State would furnish contract building inspectors at no cost to the County, funded by the permit and inspection fees. The fee schedule is as follows:
Construction Value Inspection Fee
Up to $100,000 $350
$100,001 – $ 150,000 $400
The fee would increase by $50 for each $50,000 increment in value up to a maximum of $600. The issuing agent would receive a $15 fee from the State for electronically filing the inspection requests. This would be deducted from the Inspection Fee listed above. The Inspection Fee includes one free reinspection. Additional reinspections would cost $100 each. The construction value would be determined by using 60 percent of the IRC valuation standard multiplied by the square footage being constructed for a minimum value allowed.
Inspections will be made within 24 hours of request for footer inspections, and within 72 hours for framing and final inspections. If the time frame passes, the contractor may move forward with their project with no repercussions. The State does not currently do plumbing or mechanical inspections as part of the building inspection process.
· Start an Inspection Program – The second option would be for CumberlandCounty to start an inspection program without using the State. Using this option, the County could adopt an edition of the IRC that is different from the current edition, as long as they are within seven years of the State’s currently adopted edition. To qualify for this option, the County would be required to have certified inspectors, and must actively perform the inspections on homes.
Under this option, the County could contract with the City of Crossville to use their inspectors. Jeff Kerley from the City of Crossville’s Codes Enforcement Department was present to discuss the possibility of the County contracting with the City to do building inspections. The City currently inspects based on the 2006 edition of the IRC. The current construction value is calculated at $75.56 per square foot. That price is used to determine the fee as described in the first option. The City currently does footer, foundation, rough plumbing, rough building, slab and final inspections, but no mechanical inspections. While the City currently does plumbing inspections, it would be up to the Board of Commissioners to determine if plumbing inspections were required for County residences. If plumbing inspections are required, an additional charge of $2.50 per fixture plus $10 for the permit is required. All inspections will be completed within 24 hours of notification. If the timeframe passes, the contractor may move forward with their project with no repercussions. The City does not charge reinspection fees.
· Opt out completely – The County could also opt completely out of the inspection process if a two thirds majority of the Board of Commissioners agrees. This opt out would only last until the next election of the Board of Commissioners, and would then require the same two thirds vote. The biggest problem with this option is that it has the potential to affect the County’s ability to acquire grants and Three Star programs. Currently, 15 – 18 points are allocated for building inspections for many competitive grants, although that is subject to change with a different administration taking the Governor’s office.
After an option is chosen by the Board of Commissioners, the County could still change to one of the other options listed at a later date. Again, all code inspections would be residential and no changes would be made to commercial inspections. Residential inspections exclude items such as pole barns and detached garages. Homeowners would still be able to build a home on their own without being licensed as long the home is built to code. The codes would only be enforced for new homes and on additions of 30 square feet or more. Renovations would not require inspections. One of the advantages of building codes would be creating a level playing field for contractors as they would only be competing with other licensed contractors that were all building to the same set of standards. Again, these codes would not mandate sprinkler systems. Also of note, the electrical inspection process would not change.
My initial leaning is toward the second option, but I need your feedback. Please contact me by email, phone or Facebook to let me know your opinion on this issue or to get answers to your questions.