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Ordinance would make city’s building codes uniform with county’s

By Bill Short

Flag City LogoThe Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has passed an ordinance on first reading that would make the city’s building codes uniform with Shelby County’s.
Board members took the action during their May 11 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Frankie Dakin and seconded by Alderman Hank Hawkins.
The motion was passed by five affirmative votes, with Alderman Mike Caruthers dissenting and Alderman Thomas McGhee absent.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for final reading at the board’s June 8 meeting and would become effective on July 1.
It states that the board has previously adopted various building code requirements, which are codified in Chapters 1-17 of Title 12 of the Millington Municipal Code.
The board believes it is in the “best interest” of Millington residents to have the city’s building codes uniform with the county’s, and to have inspections conducted by the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Construction Code Enforcement.
Because such functions are covered by user fees that are set by the board, an amendment to the Municipal Code is required.
The proposed ordinance would repeal Chapters 1-17 in their entirety, and a new Chapter 1 would be established for Title 12.
A new Section 12-101 would state that the building, plumbing, electrical, gas and housing codes in effect in the county would also be effective within the Millington city limits and would be enforced by county and/or city personnel.
A new Section 12-102 would state that the Office of Construction Code Enforcement periodically establishes fees. Although Millington’s fee would be based on those, it would be multiplied by a factor of 1.33 to cover the costs incurred by both the city and the OCCE.
On a motion offered by Alderman Chris Ford and seconded by Alderman Bethany Huffman, the board also adopted a resolution approving a “services agreement” between the city and the OCCE.
That motion was also passed by five affirmative votes, with Caruthers dissenting.
The resolution states that the city wishes to use the services of the OCCE for most construction and zoning compliance.
Subject to approval by City Attorney Charles Perkins, either Mayor Terry Jones or City Manager Ed Haley is authorized to execute the services agreement and any related documents.
Perkins said the resolution will also have to be adopted by the county commission.
During discussion shortly before both actions, Caruthers said he thinks the city loses a lot of customer service when it turns the code enforcement over to the county.
“It’s very convenient now for our residents to come in and get a permit and to get inspected locally,” he noted. “We need to make it easier on people to do things within the city to help build the city up, not make it more difficult.”
In response to a question by Huffman, City Finance Director John Trusty said he will have cost-saving data for the board members before the final reading of the ordinance.
Huffman said she was happy to see that, “in all cases,” there is an “application” at City Hall.
“So, the customer-service piece of it being local at that part still appears to be in place,” she noted. “And it does free up some of our inspectors to enforce other things that we’ve had issues with around the city.”
When Dakin acknowledged that he did not examine the budget to see how much the city made on permit fees last year, Trusty said “not a lot.”
Caruthers said his concern is the customer service that the city will receive.
“I don’t think you’re going to save that much money,” he said. “I’d like to see those numbers, too.”
Perkins noted that, within the next several months, the county will be switching to a system where a permit can actually be obtained online. But he acknowledged that does not address the issue of inspection.
Caruthers said it is very difficult to get the county’s inspectors to “commit to a time.”
“Normally, when you want an inspection, they give you a four-hour window,” he noted. “Sometimes, it’s an all-day window, which is not acceptable if you’re running a business.”
But Perkins said there is more involved than just building inspection. There is also codes enforcement.
He noted that things like vacant buildings will come under the jurisdiction of Environmental Court, where those issues will be heard.
“You have a judicial finding that the owner is not in compliance,” he said. “That removes you a step further if you get into a lawsuit at that point. So, there’s some protection for the city in that.”
When Caruthers said “title work” will still be required, Perkins noted that the city will probably do a “title reference” to determine ownership.
“We’re in the process of doing the 12 now that have been identified,” the city attorney said. “We’ll send them a certified letter and give them so many days to come into compliance. If they don’t, we’ll send them a notice. And, of course, it’ll be published in the paper.”

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May 2015
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