‘Buyer’s remorse’

200px-Map_of_West_Virginia_highlighting_Greenbrier_County.svgBy Peggy Mackenzie

During the Tuesday night meeting, the Greenbrier County Commission took a vote to rescind action taken at the Dec. 8 meeting which added a requirement to have building plans approved by a certified planning engineer before submitting them to the county’s planning and permits department.

“This has been a problem since we’re in the business of inspecting construction in the county,” Commission President Mike McClung said. “But now we have added additional costs for contractors and their clients. I’m not happy with the remedy,” he said. “I move to rescind the motion concerning revision of the requirements for inspecting building plans.”

Commissioner Lowell Rose, who argued in favor of keeping the requirement, said, “I still believe this is the right thing to do.” Without a structural engineer on the courthouse staff, houses built without adequate plans from an architect or engineer can create a liability for the county. “We’re putting an employee in the planning department in a position he cannot win,” he said.

Both McClung and Commissioner Woody Hanna had no argument with Rose’s position, with Hanna suggesting more study was needed on the issue and that perhaps the county prosecutor could draft new regulations. He said he’d received calls from six contractors complaining about the added requirement.

“It is those contractors that are complaining that we have to watch,” Rose said. He cited the example of what happened a few years back in the Lewisburg Lamplighter subdivision when structural deficiencies were found in a group of houses there. Load-bearing walls were found lacking, and faulty plumbing installations put those homes at risk. Several structures had to be demolished. He urged keeping the certificate requirement in place while researching how other jurisdictions are handling the issue before voting to rescind.

Ultimately, the vote was 2-1 to rescind the requirement to have construction plans approved by a certified engineer or architect, with Rose opposing.

It is unclear why the commission departed from protocol in their decision to vote on a non-agenda item, an action not generally permitted under the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act.

In other business:

• The commission approved a State Division of Justice and Service Treatment Supervision grant for $80,000 for the Day Report Center. Director Laura Legg stated the funds will provide salaries for two positions within the department: a community engagement specialist and a peer recovery coach. The funds must be reapplied for each year, and there is no requirement for matching funding.

• A contract was approved for the West Virginia Courthouse Facility Improvement grant of $72,000 that will fund a study to solve the drainage problem at the front of the courthouse. When the structure was built, McClung said, there was no drainage solution installed to keep water away from the building.


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