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New Pa. construction code will have wide impact

June 01, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Starting July 1, homeowners, handymen, small and large contractors and big developers in Franklin County will have to line up at a small office on Cleveland Avenue to get building permits.

That's the date the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code takes effect in Franklin County.

The new law affects anyone who builds, remodels or repairs a house or building, said Clem Malot, head of the Franklin County office of Commonwealth Code Inspection Service, or CCIS, at 550 Cleveland Ave.

Most Franklin County municipalities have signed on with CCIS to do their inspections. Permit and inspection fees will pay for the service, not taxpayers.

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One area developer said the new code could add as much as $1,000 to the cost of building a house.

CCIS, with its home office in Manheim, Pa., mostly handles inspections for electric utilities and insurance companies, Malot said.

The company will begin its work July 1 with eight inspectors handling the four main construction areas - electrical, plumbing, mechanical and general building.

"We'll hire more inspectors as we need them," he said.

Inspectors will show up on the job within 24 hours after a permit is issued, Malot said.

"We'll keep appointments," he said.

"The code requires bare minimum standards that everyone will have to adhere to to ensure safe structures. Everyone will be on the same playing field," he said.

Some Franklin County municipalities such as Waynesboro and Chambersburg have had their own building inspectors for years, Malot said.

Waynesboro officials are trying to decide how to conduct inspections following the resignation of borough building inspector Douglas Pyle earlier this month.

Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said the Borough Council could hire its own contractor to do local inspections. The contractor would have to be certified by the state.

Homeowners, contractors and developers will apply for building permits in the borough hall or township office, depending on where the work will be done. The project will need a land-use plan approved by the municipality that meets zoning, subdivision and public utility regulations before a permit is issued, Malot said.

"The last thing we want to do is issue a permit for a structure that's not allowed to be built," he said.

The law requires applicants to personally deliver a signed original plan to the CCIS office for review, he said.

If Waynesboro hires an inspector, residents could get building permits locally, Hamberger said.

Under the code, property owners can still do basic home repairs such as replacing windows and doors, installing vinyl siding, patching a roof, building a patio - but not a deck - and repairing any plumbing fixture that has a cut-off valve. They will no longer be able to replace a water heater without a permit, he said.

"If in doubt, they should call the office," Malot said.

Inspection fees for a new home would run about $360, according to a CCIS handout. Approximate fees for small-scale projects such decks, sheds and fences would run from $15 to $60, according to the handout.

Ronnie Martin, a Waynesboro-area real estate developer and contractor, said he believes the inspection code could add $1,000 to the price of a new home.

Waiting for an inspector to show up also will cost time, he said.

"It could be burdensome if the inspector isn't prompt," he said.

Martin also said that while the new code is "a good thing overall, it will be a learning process and could be cumbersome at first."

He said he expects few problems in the Waynesboro area because of the high level of skill among area tradesmen.

"We have a lot of good craftsmen who know what they're doing," he said.

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