Outside firm hired to inspect buildings

June 06, 2007 at 2:32 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

St. Charles Parish Council voted to hire an outside firm to perform building inspections because there is not enough adequately trained personnel qualified in the planning and zoning department to do the job.

“The tests you have to take to become certified to do these inspections are very tough," Parish Planning and Zoning Director Michael Henderson said.

Plan Review and Inspection Services, a company headed up by Paul “Joey” Murray and Ray Davezac an engineer and former public works director have been awarded a five year contract with two one year extensions to conduct the building inspections required by law in St. Charles Parish.

“The company's expertise is necessary, as there is an extreme shortage of people trained to do the work,” he continued.

“We received grant money to buy scanners, and plotters, and upgrade our trucks to prepare for these inspections, but we still need qualified people to do the work.”

But the council expressed concerns that being locked into a contract with the firm could be expensive.

“I hope the contract won’t cost more than the parish will collect in fees,” Councilman "Ram" Ramchandran said.

But Henderson said he expects that the average inspection cost of 60 cents per square foot for residential buildings should bring in about $400,000 per year. The contract is expected to cost the parish about $330,000. Henderson said the company will be paid an hourly rate. As the parish adds staff, he said, it could simply send the company less work.

Councilman Barry Minnich was the only person who voted against the proposal.

The Legislature mandated that homes built after Dec. 31, 2006, comply with building codes. The move was designed to encourage insurance companies to continue writing policies in the state in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But the requirements are a burden on many of the state's rural and suburban parishes, which did not require inspections.

The company has been doing consulting work with the parish as the department gears up for the inspection process.

In other council news:

The owners of Ashton Plantation Estates, received final approval to begin constructing homes as part of a new subdivision, in Luling. The 45 acre development will consist of 92 lots, 1.4 acres of walking trails, and 4.7 acres of lakes.

Councilman Brian Fabre expressed concerns that residents need to have utilities like telephone and cable access as soon as the houses are complete.

“I want to know if anything can be done about people not getting their cable and telephone utility services turned on when they move into these new subdivisions,” Fabre said.

Mike Henderson, director of planning and zoning will check into the possibility of setting up timelines for utility service providers to work with developers to solve this problem.

Sarah Theresa Owens, a resident of Luling, graduate of Hahnville High School and senior at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, won the Louisiana Sugar Queen title at the 65th Annual Louisiana Sugar Queen Pageant held on September 26, 2006, in New Iberia.

Since the founding of the oldest and largest harvest pageant in the state in 1959, Owens is the third representative from St. Charles Parish to win the state title.

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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