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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Local officials may soon begin home inspections

September 27th, 2011 11:41 pm by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Planning Commission took the first step on Tuesday toward getting back into the process of conducting building inspections.
Commission Chairman Steve Pierce started the process by asking several questions about the way inspections are being done by state certified inspectors and the prices they charge. He directed the questions to the county’s building permits officer, Jack Hampton.
Pierce began by asking how much the inspections cost a new home builder. Hampton said the total cost was $350 at a minimum. He said a $600,000 home that was inspected this month had $950 in inspection fees. “The state made $500 in that one,” Hampton said.
Pierce asked how much the county receives from the inspections. Hampton said the county gets $15 from each inspection done by a inspector for the state.
Pierce said the inspections could be done cheaper and save the new homebuilder money if they were done by county inspectors. “That would save people a lot of money, wouldn’t it?” Pierce asked.
Planning Director Chris Schuettler agreed. He said two of the county inspectors have passed the residential inspection examination and one has passed the commercial inspection exam. He said that means the county has a better qualified inspector than the state inspectors.
“I would like to know what the procedures are to get this changed. Lets put our own people to work,” Pierce said.
“The key is to give our citizens a good product,” Schuettler said. “You may have the best contractor in the world or you many have one that is a little bit shoddy.” He said the job of the inspectors is protect the homebuilder.
The commissioners then approved a motion to bring it before them next month to initiate the process to get the county inspectors back into the building inspection process.
The action was the latest in a dispute between Schuettler and Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey over the implementation of the recently adopted 2009 International Building Code. The controversy even drew in high-ranking officials with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Humphrey was not at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, but during the height of the controversy he had said it was not a dispute between him and Schuettler. Humphrey said he was concerned about the possible liability for the county and said the county’s inspectors were not yet trained to conduct the inspections.
Schuettler contended during the controversy that the law allowed the county inspectors a year to become certified and they were allowed to make inspections during that year.
Then Assistant Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance Jim Pillow agreed the county inspectors could conduct inspections prior to completing the certification courses as long as they had not previously been conducting building inspections.
Humphrey said the county inspectors had been conducting building inspections in the past. Schuettler said they had only been checking one aspect of the footer inspection to make sure the ground wire had been properly placed.
The Carter County Commission temporarily resolved the controversy in May by requiring building inspections to be done by inspectors for the state and provided funding for a state inspection for homes previously inspected by the county.
In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting, the planners heard from two citizens who had qualified to speak under the commission’s new rules on public comments.
Roy Livingston said the buffer zone between his property and the Ice House Saloon in Hampton had deteriorated during the past winter and was down not only on his side but on the property owner on the opposite side of the saloon. The buffer is mandated by the zoning regulations.
Schuettler said he was unaware the barrier was down and said he would work to correct the problem.
Scott Bennett of Taylortown Road said his property is being destroyed by clay being washed down from a residence above his that was built after all the vegetation had been removed. Bennett said he has been to the county’s Highway and Planning departments over the problem, but even though the property owner has taken some steps, the clay continues to flow onto his property with every rain.
County Commissioner Charles Von Cannon backed up Bennett’s statements.
“You have a hard job,” Von Cannon told the planners. “You have inherited a lot of problems.” He said the subdivision was constructed around 1961 and one of the biggest problems was a 24-inch tile that empties onto Bennett’s property.
“It is a tile to nowhere,” Von Cannon said. It does not connect to a ditch on the other side and therefore is not tied in to a drainage system.
“There is no economical solution to this one,” Von Cannon said. “People have paved their driveways without putting in tiles.”
Schuettler said an offer by Bennett to allow the road department to dig a new ditch on a 6-foot section of his property might help. He said he planned to get together with Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins, Highway Supervisor Slim Miller, Bennett and the other property owner to work on a solution.

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