Mayor’s veto overridden on building code inspector job

Gary B. Gray • Apr 23, 2012 at 10:27 PM

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s April 6 veto of a resolution to create the county’s first in-house building code inspector was easily trumped Monday.

County commissioners voted 19-3 to override Eldridge’s first-ever veto that arose out of his desire to not “put the cart before the horse” in approving the new position and department without having a clearly defined method of funding in place.

Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford has said the in-house building code inspector’s cost would be offset by using the state’s established inspection and permitting fees. Commissioners obviously sided with Rutherford. Commissioners Mitch Meredith, David Tomita and Ken Lyon voted against the override. Commissioners Ethan Flynn and Lee Chase were not present at the vote.

The original resolution, which called for a roughly $61,000 budget for the new position, passed last month 22-2 with one absent.

On Monday, commissioners first voted to file the 2006 edition of the International Building Code with the county clerk — an action that triggers the time clock on adoption of the building codes. The new hire is expected to come onboard this summer, and the county should begin collecting its fees on Sept. 1 — fees that do not have to be shared with the state.

Meredith attempted to make a motion to defer a vote on the override, but Chairman Greg Matherly told commissions that County Attorney John Rambo had instructed him that it needed to be an up or down vote.

“I believe the best procedure before hiring a building inspector is to establish a funding mechanism,” Eldridge said before the vote. “Do we have a demand to justify a full-time position? And why have we not communicated this proposal to the builder’s association? It’s not that we’ve got a bad plan. It’s just that I feel we need to establish a funding mechanism first.”

Rutherford stepped up and asked to be heard.

“The cart is not before the horse,” he said. “You (commissioners) decided today to go forward. You don’t just hire a guy on Sept. 1. I don’t want to debate and belabor this. You either want the program or you don’t. I have workshops scheduled, and that includes builders. When you adopted the resolution, you OK’d the position. It’s up to you to set the fees.”

The county wants to opt out of its current arrangement with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and start its own residential building codes department. The department would fit into the stream which comprises the start-to-finish process, beginning with plans approved by the Washington County Zoning Office and ending with a county-issued permit.

If the county adopted the same fees as the state — which currently does the inspections — the $79,000 that went to the state in 2011 would pay for the estimated $61,000 it would cost to hire a state-certified inspector, a vehicle, office, travel and other expenses with $18,000 left over.

“It seems important that the zoning administrator and county mayor should be on the same page on this,” said Commissioner Mark Ferguson. “Have you sat down with him?” he asked Rutherford.

“No,” he replied.

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