2017-07-12 / News

Lapeer to hold workshop session on building department July 25

BY JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER — The Lapeer City Commission will hold a public workshop session on Tuesday, July 25 at 5:30 p.m. regarding its 10-year-old building department.

Commissioner Catherine Bostick-Tullius has been riding City Manager Dale Kerbyson to schedule a meeting since March, and has become increasingly frustrated it hasn’t happened yet. At a meeting of the commission Monday evening, Bostick said she wasn’t going to leave the meeting without a date set.

Kerbyson has been trying for months to get an official from the state building and licensing department to agree to a date when the individual could join the discussion as it relates to building code enforcement and the role the city’s building department plays. The state has yet to commit anyone to a meeting in Lapeer.

In particular, said Bostick, she would like better definition of how the building code is enforced in the city, and to examine the fee schedule charged to residents, contractors, landlords and businesses as it relates to inspections and permits for upgrades to structures within the city.

Kerbyson was working on the assumption from an earlier meeting that the commission sought a special Saturday session to conduct the workshop on the building department under the direction of Darryl Oliver.

“Our citizens and building owners are waiting on us to hold this meeting. We’ve been saying for months we’re going to hold it, but it hasn’t happened and some are wondering if we’re ever going to do it,” said Bostick.

Mayor Bill Sprague cautioned the commission that the July 25 meeting “shouldn’t develop into a beat-up the building department” session. “We’re not here to fix blame, but to fix things if we need to make some adjustments because there’s a perception by some that Lapeer is a difficult place to do business,” said Sprague, who chairs the meetings.

City attorney Mike Nolan also directed commissioners to be mindful about how they conduct the meeting and the content of their discussion. “If the meeting becomes about job performance or a critique and Darryl Oliver is at the meeting, he may ask for the meeting to be held in executive session so you need to be careful,” said Nolan.

Frustrated at the level of service it was receiving at the time from the Construction Code Authority (CCA) for prompt and accountable building inspections, in February 2007 the City department was established under the stipulation that it be self-funded, paid for by inspection fees.

The city’s building department has been responsible for inspection for industrial, commercial and residential structues including rental properties like apartment buildings and single-family homes. The Lapeer Building Dept. follows guidelines set by the Michigan Building Code.

Sprague recalled that the building department was approved in order to provide faster, more effective service for residents and building owners that operate in the city, and to provide those services at cost less than the CCA was charging.

The department and its director have been the target of complaints over the years that it’s nickel and diming residents, building owners and contractors with excessive fees, a claim Kerbyson refutes and looks forward to demonstrate at the upcoming meeting.

The commission approved the new department on a 4-1 vote in 2007, with then commissioner Mike Robinet the lone dissenter who was concerned it would create bigger government for questionable returns. The building department is housed in the former GLTA offices near Lapeer’s Historic Railroad Depot.

A workshop session, while open to the public, is a working meeting of the city commission to hear an overview of the matter by officials and is not generally a two-way exchange between officials and the public. Residents and non-residents alike will have an opportunity to address the city commission, though the comments are generally recorded for their consideration in future discussions relevant to any changes it might make to the department, its operations or the fees it charges.

The city commission meets in second-floor chambers at city hall.

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