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Published: Thursday, 4/13/2006

Findlay panel to ponder new building code


FINDLAY - For decades, the city of Findlay has resisted the idea of requiring inspections of all new and renovated homes.

In 1980 and 1993, voters repealed residential building codes passed by city council, but the idea is once again drawing interest. An ad hoc committee exploring the issue plans to meet from 4 to 6 p.m. today in council chambers.

"We're in the infancy stage of discovery," said 6th Ward Councilman Bill Schedel, who is chairing the committee.

Mr. Schedel said a number of factors prompted him to urge council to revisit the issue, including public safety.

"We've had a couple major events in the community - electrical fires, house fires, etc., that may have been prevented if we had a code," he said.

He also cited the statewide housing code sponsored by State Rep. Stephen Buehrer (R., Delta) and approved by the legislature last year. Findlay and Hancock County aren't affected by the rules because they have no residential building codes in place.

His third reason for pursuing a discussion of a building code was the recommendation from Mayor Tony Iriti's visioning committee that Findlay establish a residential building code. The committee met for more than a year to formulate goals for making the city a better place.

Mr. Schedel said he's not sure why the community has been opposed to having such a code in place in the past.

"As I understand it, in the most recent battle it was the Realtors who took the lead in trying to defeat it," he said. "This time, the vast majority of people on the ad hoc committee are from outside government. We're trying to have a fairly open debate on where we go from here."

He also has invited the Hancock County commissioners to join the discussion. "It's clear to me if we do adopt a residential building code, it does need to be countywide," he said.

In northwest Ohio, Findlay's lack of a residential code is not unusual.

Mike Billmaier, Wood County's chief building inspector, said typically more metropolitan areas have adopted residential codes. Wood County's dates back to 1960.

Among those who do are Wood, Lucas, and Ottawa counties as well as the cities of Sandusky and Wauseon.

Mr. Billmaier said in his mind, requiring residential inspections is akin to "a cheap insurance policy" for homeowners. It typically costs $600 to $1,000 for permits, which result in an average of 16 inspections during the construction process beginning with the footer and foundation walls and ending with the finished plumbing, heating, and electrical work. "It's an independent set of eyes that are looking at a building and its components to hopefully catch a major health and safety issue," he said.

Because state law requires commercial and industrial building inspections, counties without their own building inspectors contract with established building inspection departments or the state to do that work. Wood County performs such inspections in both Hancock and Henry counties. Last year, Wood County's building inspection department took in $191,988 in building permit fees from Hancock County property owners, Mr. Billmaier said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.

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