City approves new building department

By Larry Stanford

June 5, 2014

The Thomaston City Council established its own building inspection department at its meeting on May 19. The need for the department came after the city and county decided in the last service delivery agreement to separate the joint building permits and inspections department they had been previously operating under.

The council approved the hiring of two building inspectors and approved several changes and reinforcements its building code. A resolution establishing the building permit fees was tabled until June at the request of City Manager Patrick Comiskey.

City Attorney Joel Bentley presented the proposals to the council. First was the approval of an additional construction codes ordinance. Bentley said the ordinance strengthens the current code by calling attention to property “below grade” which someone might seek a permit to build on.

“The community has an issue with properties that have water lines below grade,” Bentley said. “Below grade means gravity flow sewers don’t flow properly. If they back up, they could back up into the below grade area. This requires that proper backflow preventers be put into place. It puts the public on notice that it is the public’s obligation to install the backflow preventers. Our building inspectors will make sure the ordinance is complied with before any certificate of occupancy is issued. This has been a continuing issue in this community, and we think by doing it this way, it let’s everybody know where they stand as far as backflows in lower grade areas.”

Mayor Hays Arnold noted that this is not a new requirement, but one that protects property.

“I was building in the city of Atlanta and the city of Decatur in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and although that may appear onerous to some people, it was a requirement at that point in time as a matter of building routine,” Arnold said. “The specific reason for that is it protects your property. People need to spend as much money on sublevel areas of the home as they do on the main level. It just makes common sense that you’d like to protect your home. That will give some measure of protection.”

Mayor pro tem Doug Head made a motion to approve the ordinance. Council member Don Greathouse seconded the motion and it was approved 5-0.

Bentley also presented the council with a utility turn-on inspection amendment to the utility code. The amendment calls for a comprehensive utility turn-on inspection be done by a city building inspector before the utilities can be turned on and any problems found must be fixed before the utilities will be turned on. In order to avoid continued utility turn-on inspections, once the inspection has been completed and the utilities turned on, another inspection won’t be required more than once every two years.

Council member Patsy Perdue made a motion to approve the amendment. Council member Gary Atwater seconded the motion and it was approved 5-0.

The council also approved a building inspection services agreement with Marvin Easom, who will act as one of the city’s building inspectors. The agreement outlines the policies and procedures under which Easom will work. His fees will be tied to a portion of the permits.

Bentley added that it would be hard to find someone else locally as experienced as Easom.

“Mr. Easom is very well known in this community. He has been highly recommended by a well-respected major general contractor. I venture to say it is locally possible to find someone as qualified, but not likely.”

Council member Don Greathouse made a motion to approve the agreement. Council member J. D. Stallings seconded the motion and it was approved 5-0.

Bentley also requested the council approve Robert Ellington, Jr. as the second city building inspector. He said Ellington and Easom will have different responsibilities, but will work together. It was claried that Easom will work on a contractual basis, while Ellington will work on a daily basis.

Ellington already works for the city as a certified police officer, animal control officer, and code enforcement officer. Bentley said this new position fits in well with his other duties.

“Mr. Ellington, from my experience as the city attorney, working with him for the period of my tenure, has worked diligently toward code enforcement,” Bentley said. “ I find him to be responsive to the needs of the community; I find him to be responsive to the needs of the city. More importantly, I find him to be a resource to the community as far as his ability to resolve issues without conflict. I think that is a paramount thing with a building inspector. A building inspector needs to be able to go on the premises, inspect the property, identify any problems, and be able to discuss those problems in a clear and calm manner. I believe that Mr. Ellington has demonstrated this for years in the community.”

Council member Perdue made a motion to approve hiring Robert Ellington, Jr. as the second building inspector. Council member Atwater seconded the motion and it was approved 5-0.

Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.