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City has only building code officer in county

LOCK HAVEN — The City of Lock Haven is the only one of 29 municipalities in Clinton County with a building code official on staff.

That information was presented to city council on Monday night by Code and Zoning Officer Cyndi Walker who wanted to clarify what it is her office does.

The function of Walker’s office is to ensure the enforcement of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), she said.

The UCC is a statewide building code implemented in 2004.

There are two options, according to the Department of Labor and Industry’s (DLI) website, that each municipality can use to ensure the UCC is enforced. They are an “opt-in” or “opt-out” options.

Ten municipalities in Clinton County are opt-out while 19 are opt-in, including the city.

If a municipality chooses to be an opt-out they give all commercial and industrial permit application responsibilities to DLI.

“You make your permit application to them, they complete the plan review, they do the inspection and they set the permitting fee,” Walker said.

When it comes to residential permit applications, it is the property owner’s responsibility to contract with a third party inspection agency to ensure the UCC regulations are met, she said.

The opt-in option gives property owners more say in who to speak with about permit applications.

“An opt-in municipality means that a municipality elects to administer the UCC locally using either their own employ or a third party agency, or a combination of the two,” Walker said.

The city of Lock Haven does a combination of the two, with residential permits and inspections handled by Walker and the commercial by third party inspection agency Code Inspection Inc. in Montgomery.

“There is only one municipality that has a municipal employee that is certified to do residential inspections, all but electrical, and that is the city of Lock Haven,” Walker said.

Due to the majority of the county utilizing a third party contractor for commercial permit applications, the pricing index is about the same, she said.

Walker pulled statistics and prices for the Lucky 7 Travel Plaza, which is currently under construction along Walnut Street, to showcase the difference in cost compared to various factors.

The permit was issued by Code Inspection Inc. and cost $5,657.07, approximately .13 percent of the estimated $4.3 million project, Walker said.

“The fee would still hold true in 10 of the 29 municipalities,” she said. “The permit fee for the same project through DLI, based on th permit fee which is found on their website, would be $8,139.45. That is about a 30% increase in the permit fee that we issued through our third party agency.”

Walker also used the city of Williamsport as an example.

Williamsport, like the city, offers UCC enforcement through a municipal employee but it does have exceptions.

“They do not do accessibility, they do not do electrical and they do not do fire inspections,” she said.

Although she’s unsure of how many employees are on staff at, she was able to calculate how much Lucky 7’s permit would have cost.

“The same permit fee that we just talked about, based on their fee schedule, would cost $55,870,” she said. “That’s about 1.36% of the total cost of construction and that doesn’t include the cost of a third party that would have to do the accessibility, the electrical and the fire inspections.”

City Manager Gregory Wilson said the difference in cost is phenomenal.

“I think at that point you can’t look at taking commercial on board when it can be done efficiently to that degree,” he said.

Wilson also noted the amount of work Walker and Health Officer Patty Jones do for the city.

“We used to have a full time Uniform Construction Code officer, before a building code official and a full time zoning official,” he said. “Right now all of that has been condescend down to one human being.”

Wilson said he understands that it can be frustrating for the public when things aren’t addressed, but it’s because one person is doing two jobs.

“So there are only the 2,080 hours a year that you compensate for labor and asking one person to do multiple peoples jobs is obviously frustrating if you’re a member of the public and feel that people should be doing more,” he said. “But it’s frustrating on the city’s end too because there really are only so many hours in the day and nobody’s wasting time.”

With the proposed hire of a property maintenance manager, the city hopes to alleviate some of the workload in the code enforcement office.

“In the budget right now is a line item for a part time property maintenance manager,” Wilson said. “One of the first things they would be responsible for doing is a review of the 2018 update to the International Property Maintenance Code, determining where in our existing ordinance those items could either be pulled from and put under that roof or what is in the 2018 Property Maintenance Code that would be a recommendation to city council that we should start to enforce here.”

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