Letter: Building departments must follow state codes

There are four important factors Mr. Sprague and the commissioners have failed to consider or address with their comments to the public.

• Local building departments administer and enforce state codes. Local departments are not permitted to change, delete or modify code provisions. Unlike the marketing and promotional role of AEDG, the primary role of building codes and their administration and enforcement by local or state building departments is to prevent injury or loss of life and to ensure the life safety of all occupants. Building codes and effective enforcement are designed to reduce hazards during such disasters as fire, hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes. Another important role is to ensure buildings and systems are usable and operate efficiently for all persons.

• The secondary role of a building department is to promote and assist in development by keeping the code enforcement process as simple and user friendly as possible while enforcing state codes to protect the life safety of the public

• Rules governing the operation and processes of building departments are clearly defined in the Ohio Revised Code and are uniform in all areas of Ohio. These rules mandate how permits, inspections and occupancy approvals are granted.

• A building official can interpret codes, but variances can only be granted by the Ohio Board of Building Appeals. Having a local building department in Lima to enable owners and designers to meet face to face with the building official to discuss code interpretations and resolve problems in a timely fashion is invaluable to the successful completion of any project. While serving as Chief Building Official of the Lima-Allen County Building Department for more than 17 years, I worked closely with owners and designers to facilitate their variance requests to the Ohio Board of Building Appeals. In most cases, we were able to identify an equitable solution to the issue prior to the hearing that minimized hardships or adverse impacts to their project and that I could support state board hearing. With the building official’s support, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of variances were granted by the state board for the applicant.

In summary, the code enforcement process is mandated by state law and contracting with Miami County will not change the regulations. From my personal experience, I know the Lima-Allen County Building Department has and will take every possible step to make the permitting process efficient and effective. I don’t feel Miami County can do more.

It had always been my feeling the building department and AEDG should be on the same team in efforts to attract and develop new businesses. I take exception to Mr. Sprague’s comments that the department is an impediment to attracting development to the county. I fail to see how contracting with a different department will enhance development or streamline the process.

William L. Brown, chief building official, retired

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