Members of Cumberland County’s Environmental Committee will meet Thursday evening to further discuss the status of countywide building permits and its agreement with the city of Crossville.
The county has had an agreement with the city since it began a home building inspection program a few years ago. The program is mandated by the state. Counties in Tennessee must either adopt building codes and start a program, or come under the state and use state inspectors.
The county opted to use inspectors from the city of Crossville and adopted a similar policy for private construction of homes. The county currently does not have commercial building codes.
The city is planning to adopt the 2009 building codes and the county must either adopt the 2009 codes or come up with a different plan.
City of Crossville Manager David Rutherford and Jeff Kerley, building codes enforcement inspector for the city, attended the meeting last week.
The city is also raising the inspection fees with the adoption of the 2009 building codes.
Rutherford explained, “Since we are going to the 2009 building codes and the new charges, we will have to draft another agreement.”
Kerley explained, according to the state, the city must adopt building codes that are within seven years of the current year.
“We’re currently under the 2006 building codes so we have to either adopt 2009 codes or 2012,” Kerley said.
Jeff Brown, 8th District commissioner, and environmental committee chair, said, “2006 is no longer valid. We can’t use an outdated code.”
Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner, said, “I thought if we had our own program in place, then we didn’t have to follow the state guidelines. I mean, some counties don’t even have it yet.”
“If they don’t have it, then the state handles it,” Brown said.
“What are they wanting to add on? I want to check with the (county) attorney on this. I want to see what we have to do. Morgan County don’t have one,” Harvel said.
Brown said, “We just need to update the code so that we meet the requirements that agree to the new fee schedule — if we don’t, then we’ll have to go under the state,” Brown said.
The increase being considered is approximately $40 on the base fee.
Kerley explained the city went with the 2009 building codes because the 2012 codes “are very stringent. It would raise the cost of building the house from between $3,000 to $5,000.”
“That’s why I want us to OK the 2009 codes,” Brown said.
“We’ll have to do it again in a few years, but we haven’t raised the fees in six years of doing this and have had increased costs,” Kerley said.
Johnny Presley, 3rd District commissioner, said, “This county passed a resolution that said the codes were for residential only.”
“I don’t think we intend to implement commercial at all anytime soon,” Brown said.
“We don’t want commercial,” Presley said.
“Why? They’re paying for it everywhere else. There’s businesses coming in and building from out of town ... We’re charging the local people to build residential, but not businesses that build commercial,” Sonya Rimmer, 8th District commissioner, said.
“Honestly, people think I’m joking when I tell them there’s no fees or commercial building inspection in the county. They can’t believe it,” Kerley said.
“Why go to the 2009 and not the 2012? What’s it going to cost to do it again in two years? ... You’re going to raise the prices and only go up two years? Maybe we ought to look at doing it another way,” Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, said.
Rutherford explained the 2012 code inspections would require a lot of training for inspectors and contractors, as well.
“Unless we start our own program and hire inspectors and supply vehicles, then we could go with the state. Under the state it may take five days to get an inspector out here,” Brown said.
“We ought to look at the fee schedule. I say keep it the same (rate) and add commercial inspections,” Lynch said.
Rutherford told the committee the city needs the agreement by August.
“What’s the difference between the 2006 and 2009?” Harvel asked.
“It has it’s own valuation code. If you want to do something different that’s up to you, but we can’t keep two sets of books to cover your inspections,” Rutherford said.
“The main differences are in plumbing and mechanical and there are several minor changes,” Kerley said.
“Then why raise it?” Harvel asked.
“The expenses have gone up,” Rutherford said.
“What do you want to do?” Brown asked the committee.
“I don’t want to raise prices on an industry that is just starting to recover. It went in the tank for three years and it’s just starting to recover and now we’re going to raise the rates? Why?” Lynch asked.
Rutherford explained that 65 percent of the permits issued are in the county.
“You don’t pay it, it’s the builder,” Rutherford said.
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, said, “I think we ought to look at adding on commercial fees.”
No fee rate figures were discussed during the meeting and Brown said he figured as a consensus the committee would like to see a cost comparison between the state and city for doing the building inspections for the county.
The committee will meet again to discuss and address the subject Thursday at 5 p.m. in the small meeting room of the Cumberland County Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.