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Building code goes into effect in Pa. on July 1

February 26, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Most municipalities in Franklin County do not have building codes or require building inspections for new construction, but that will change July 1 when all must adopt ordinances conforming to the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.

"Waynesboro and Chambersburg are the only communities with building codes and building code inspectors," Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said. He addressed a meeting of the Franklin County Council of Governments on the new requirements Wednesday.

"Up to now, it's been buyer beware," said Christopher. Most local governments issued building permits, but inspections of the work at various stages of construction was not required.

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That will change with implementation of the construction code, which was passed in 1999. Every municipality must adopt the ordinance and then decide how it will be administered and enforced, Christopher said.

According to a draft ordinance, townships and boroughs may hire their own inspectors, but also can contract with a company.

In January, Chambersburg hired Commonwealth Code Inspection Service Inc., or CCIS, of Manheim, Pa., to perform its inspections following the retirement of its code enforcement officer, Assistant Borough Manager David Finch said.

"Most of them that we've been talking to have indicated they will be signing with us," CCIS President Peter Schilling said of the county's 22 municipalities.

"Waynesboro has decided they will keep their own code enforcement program," he said.

Inspections on a typical house will cost about $320 and be paid by the building permit applicant, Schilling said. The company does inspections for the footer, foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, wallboard and energy, as well as the final inspection, he said.

Schilling said that on most houses, several inspections can be done simultaneously, such as plumbing, electrical and mechanical. "I want to make sure that everyone who is going to go in and cut something has already done it," he said.

Schilling, whose company provides inspection services in six states, expects that six to 10 inspectors will be needed in Franklin County. Three CCIS inspectors already live in the county and the company plans to open an office on Cleveland Avenue in Chambersburg in March, he said.

While municipalities can hire any person or company certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Christopher said having one provider assures uniformity in services and fees.

About 2,500 to 3,000 building permits are issued each year, according to county figures. Applicants will have to meet local zoning, planning, utility and other requirements before applying to CCIS for a building permit, Christopher said.

Schilling said CCIS has 15 days to issue a building permit after receiving a complete application for a house and up to 30 days for a commercial building.

Christopher said most inspections during construction will be done within 24 hours of CCIS being notified.

"Some of us here living on the Maryland line are used to building codes because we do work south of the border," said Larry Eberly, a Greencastle, Pa., builder and vice president of the Franklin County Builders Association. He said it might slow down work a day or two while contractors wait for inspections but, "I see nothing wrong with having building codes."

Eberly said most contractors already adhere to industry standards that conform with the state's new requirements.

The Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code is based on the International Building Code, said Clem Malot, a CCIS inspector from Fulton County. He said Pennsylvania is one of the few states yet to implement a uniform building code.

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