Commissioner questions work of building inspectors

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Commissioners Thursday voted to extend the agreement SAFEbuilt LLC to operate the county building department for one year, but not without some debate.

According to the staff report, on June 2013, Okeechobee County entered into an agreement with Independent Inspections, Ltd. to operate the county building department. Independent Inspections, Ltd. was later acquired by SAFEbuilt, LLC. SAFEbuilt Florida, LLC is a subsidiary of SAFEbuilt, LLC and currently manages the building department. SAFEbuilt Florida provides a certified building official, inspectors and plans examiners, and support personnel to manage all aspects of building permitting and contractor licensing. In exchange for the services provided, Okeechobee County pays SAFEbuilt 85 percent of permitting and licensing fees.

The most recent agreement is for a two-year period that expires on June 25, 2018. The agreement includes a provision allowing for one one-year extension that would expire June 25, 2019.

“Personally, I think they should be on probation,” said Commissioner David Hazellief.

He questioned if inspections were being done properly.

He said in one case, the inspector approved a house that did not have the trusses plated, when the plating should have been required according to the engineer.

“I have heard from other people that these inspectors don’t carry ladders with them,” he said. He said the inspectors are using a rifle scope to inspect roofs, and he questioned if they could do a proper inspection without going up on the roof.

Planning and Zoning Director Bill Royce said the SAFEbuilt inspector that county commission complained about is no longer assigned to Okeechobee County.

He added that SAFEbuilt will make sure all of the inspectors have their own ladders.

Commissioner Hazellief said approvals have been given on houses where the work is not complete, and that means there is no way to make sure the contractor completes the work.

“This agreement for the ladders was close to 90 days ago and they still don’t have the ladders,” he said.

“It’s our job to ensure the work is 100 percent completed before we issue a CO (certificate of occupancy),” said Commissioner Hazellief.

He said in one case, a CO was issued before the work was completed, the house has since been sold.

“Guess who is going to be named in the lawsuit,” he said.

“Let’s contact the new owners, explain to them the situation and get a path forward to complete that to the satisfaction of the new owners,” said Chairman Burroughs.

He said any type of renegotiation of the contract with SAFEbuilt should be handled next year. He said when the contract is negotiated, they should put in the language needed to accommodate the board’s expectations.

In other business at their May 10 meeting, the county appointed Frank Cunningham to the Agri-Civic Advisory Board. They also appointed Osiel Luviano to the Construction Licensing Board.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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