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Preston considers adopting State Building Code

Fri, May 25th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - The Preston City Council discussed the pros and cons of adopting the State Building Code at their May 21 meeting. Planning and Zoning has recommended the adoption of the code. The code would regulate the building of homes including decks, plumbing, etc. City Administrator Joe Hoffman explained that with the adoption of the code, the city would contract for the services of a building inspector. He emphasized that it would be the council's job to hire the right person and to hold that person accountable.

Hoffman noted that about 85% of cities with a population of more than 1,000 have adopted the code. Advantages listed were the standardizing of the construction process, improving safety for the community, and improving quality of buildings. He suggested that on the negative side would be delays in building and the cost of inspections. The cost would be passed onto the property owner and be included in the building permit fee. Hoffman added that the code would not limit 'do it your selfers' from doing their own work.

Mayor Kurt Reicks expressed reservations including difficulties getting a project inspected for the week-end 'do it your selfer.' Council member David Harrison felt that it would be good for total new construction, but more difficult for additions and refurbishing. Hoffman said that it would not effect an existing structure, just new construction or additions. Reicks argued that if the homeowner hires a suitably licensed contractor, then any inspection should be only at the homeowner's expense and choice.

Council member Robert Sauer added that local contractors are known and can be trusted to do a good job, but that in the future many may have to rely on contractors that are unknown to the community. Reicks asked who would be liable if the inspector signs off on a project, but the work is later found to be faulty. Sauer admitted that the contractor would still be liable. Reicks insisted that it is an additional cost and that the homeowner should be responsible for hiring a reputable contractor. Sauer noted that less than one percent of the cost of a home would go toward inspections. Hoffman remarked that a home costing about $130,000 would incur nearly $1,000 in inspection expenses.

Council member Heath Mensink added that the code sets a standard and sees that it is met or exceeded. Sauer remarked that it will be easier for banks to sell home loans if the homes have been inspected.

Jon Haugan and David Harrison both wanted more information. Haugan plans to talk to contractors. Hoffman will put the building code issue back on the agenda for the June 4 meeting.

Assessment Policy

A draft of the new assessment policy for the city was discussed. The intention is to make assessments fair and equitable and consistent. Hoffman pointed to one significant change in policy. Where there is a sidewalk on one side of a street only, homeowners on both sides of the street will share along with the city the cost of the sidewalk regardless on which side of the street the sidewalk is installed. Reicks foresees some complaints because it has not been done that way in the past. Mensink requested that verbiage be added that stated that if sidewalks were on both sides, only the homeowner on the replacement side would have responsibility for assessments.

Sauer stressed that minor changes should be made to make each case consistent to avoid hard feelings. He was critical of language that gave the city flexibility. City Attorney Dwight Luhmann added that he had some minor language changes. He suggested that it be adopted as a policy and not an ordinance. Luhmann added that the old policy that had been adopted as an ordinance should be repealed. Hoffman and Luhmann will implement the changes and bring the policy back to the next meeting.

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