Source: Sherman Publications

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State finds deficiencies in building department

by Trevor Keiser

January 18, 2012

Independence Township finds itself again in trouble with the State of Michigan, but this time it's the building department.

"I think they're very serious on their intent to insure the construction codes which are state mandated are properly enforced. It's incumbent upon the local municipalities who have to locally enforce the codes, to do so," said Superintendent Bart Clark. "This report tells us of all the shortcomings in how we've been doing business, but we'll fix them."

Failure to comply with state recommendations could mean an issuance of Notice of Intent to Withdraw Code Administration and Enforcement of Responsibilities from the Township.

It means if contractors wanted to do construction work in Independence they would have to go to Lansing to get permits and inspection schedules, because Oakland County doesn't have a building office, noted Clark.

Trustee David Lohmeier doesn't see anything not correctable.

"It's a little bit aggressive to get everything they want in the time table, but we asked them to tell us what the condition of the department was in and if there was anything that needed to be done," he said. "We're getting actually what we asked them to tell us."

At the Aug. 16, 2011 board meeting, the board voted 3-2 for the state to review the building department. Treasurer Curt Carson and Trustee Mark Petterson voted against it at the time. The review included an assessment of the administrative procedures, department records, plan review functions, and field inspection procedures utilized by the township. The state rendered its report at the Jan. 4 State Construction Code Commission meeting in Lansing and cited nine deficiencies in which codes are administered and enforced by the township.

Many of deficiencies dealt with lack of documentation and come with a 60-day deadline to correct the issues.

Two of the deficiencies are a 30-day deadline. The first is a field inspection of the Independence Township Library. When evaluating the present condition of six roof top units and associated duct work installed in 2006 due to a lightning strike, the township's mechanical inspector found three code violations, Senior State mechanical inspector identified an additional 15 code violations.

According to the report the township could not provide documentation relating to an application for a mechanical permit, mechanical report, inspection records and reports, code violation notices and correction orders or sealed and signed construction documents for the installation.

The township also requested the bureau's inspectors perform inspections at the township's Fire Station No. 3. The township records indicated the township acted as general contractor for the project and the township's building official applied for the building permit as the owners authorized agent which appeared to the bureau as a conflict of interest.

After researching township records for project documents there were no records of plan review being conducted, no final building and mechanical inspections performed, and no record of Certificate of Use, or Occupancy being issued. During the inspection the state's mechanical inspector found eight code violations and the state electrical inspector three code violations.

The board has a 30-day window to give an action game plan report on the library and the fire station.

"We've got to have some meat on the bones for the 30 day report," Clark said. "We can't just blow it off."

Treasurer Curt Carson said he doesn't know enough to indicate the township has a major problem.

"I don't have a knee jerk reaction, I have a 'we need to look into it further ourselves.' Frankly, I don't think bringing everybody and the kitchen sink into it is necessary," Carson said. "This is an internal administrative issue that needs to be worked out."

Trustee Mark Petterson said part of the problem was how the state conducted their inspection process.

"The state came in and inspected us under the 2009 codes. Those buildings (the library and fire station No. 3) were built under the 2000 codes and they should have been inspected under the 2000 codes and they weren't," he said. "Most of that can all be cleared up, not a problem."

His biggest issue is that the report was withheld from Building Director Dave Belcher, who Petterson says had to find the report on the internet.

"As far as I'm concerned it was on purpose," Petterson said. "There was no reason for them to hold that report because it makes the whole township look bad. It really does, not only discrepancies in the building department, but the huge discrepancy in the administration."

Clerk Barbara Pallotta could not be reached for comment.