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Mayor's memo: City’s goal is to be best in building safety

In 2016, the city of Hardeeville decided to make an important change to building inspections to meet the growing needs of a rapidly expanding city.

Until July 1, 2016, the city outsourced building inspections and building plan reviews to the Dennis Corporation. Upon analysis of the volume of work and the fees generated, our city manager, Michael J. Czymbor, advised the City Council it would be profitable to form a new building safety department.

The first step was to hire a certified licensed building official, Tim Blanchard, CBO in June 2016, to head this new division.

Blanchard comes to Hardeeville with years of experience and the necessary credentials to give us immediate professionalism. He helps with building inspections, reviews plans and designs, interprets code issues, and provides builders with code input on their designs.

John Stafinski also arrived in June 2016 as building inspector. His role is to inspect works in progress to ensure construction follows design plans and meets the current codes, and he will check that work has the proper permitting.

New construction calls for 17 separate inspection visits. With more than 200 new homes being built in Hardeeville each year, Stafinski has been a very busy man.

Blanchard and Stafinski jumped right in to their new roles and began to answer the calls for inspections with the goal to meet every request within 24 hours. This is a lofty goal; our neighboring municipalities can take two to three days due to the heavy volume of requests.

To complete the initial staffing, Elizabeth (Liz) Sapp joined the team as plans examiner in September 2016. She ensures plans are filled out correctly and that they comply with prevailing codes and city ordinances. Sapp reviews plans for every permitted commercial, industrial and residential project in the city.

Building safety is synonymous with fire safety.

Thus, our building department works in concert with our deputy fire marshal, Joey Rowell, when conducting new construction and safety inspections. Residents buying new construction in Hardeeville will move into well built and safe homes, thanks to the cooperation of this team and the contractors. Each of these four has already earned the respect of builders and residents for the quality, and speed of their work.

The current rate of construction has already strained the resources of this department and future growth will make it impossible to keep up.

The city needs part time, certified, licensed inspectors to help with the busy times and another full-time inspector is in the proposed budget for July 1, 2017. Qualified applicants seeking part-time work are welcomed to call Blanchard at City Hall.

Adding this department has had a couple of tangible benefits for the city. The first thing it will do is raise the city’s ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating. This rating is based on having a plan reviewer, a training program for employees needing certification and monitoring the number of inspections per day according to legal guidelines; all the items this department now provides the city. As the rating rises, the insurance rates lower.

Secondly, the added revenue from building permits far exceeds the added cost of personnel. For this fiscal year, revenue is expected to exceed expenses by approximately $558,000.

This additional revenue will be used to hire and train additional staff, and provide the needed technology and resources to make this department an even more effective team. It is expected this amount will increase each year as building activity increases.

Blanchard, Stafinski and Sapp have been great additions to the city’s staff and they have adopted a common goal — to be the best building safety department in the state.

Setting high standards is nothing new to them. They learned the best possible way — all served in the military. We are proud of their service to our country and commend John as a disabled combat veteran, and Liz for her service as a Hardeeville firefighter. It is little wonder that they reach so high.

The creation of the Hardeeville building safety department is yet another example of the city management’s mantra to seek new and creative ways to face the challenges of the future. That ethos is why Starship Hardeeville will continue to soar.

Harry Williams is the mayor of the city of Hardeeville.

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