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HB building department issues policies, manages workload

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

    While working to keep up with a burgeoning load of inspections — short a building inspector — public works director Joe Duennes issued two memos last week to commissioners and the mayor.

    One signaled an Oct. 1 elevator shaft setback policy and the other defended what the building department considers a front setback.

    In the elevator shaft memo, Duennes described the land development code as “ambiguous.”

    The memo points out that elevator shafts have been permitted in second-living level setbacks for the past five years based on LDC definitions. However, because shafts are not habitable and do not have intermediate floors, Duennes concluded, “the past interpretation to allow elevator shafts in the second-living level setback or any other setback may not be the best interpretation.”

    On corner-lot setbacks, Duennes defended past interpretations of the LDC. He wrote, “The LDC definition section goes so far as to state ‘the front yard is the yard facing on a city street, regardless of the front entrance.’”

    The memos follow up questions raised at the Sept. 25 city commission meeting about setbacks.

    Duennes’ workload was increased by the Sept. 18 termination of building inspector Bob Shaffer.

    The city is advertising the position of a plan reviewer/inspector on the Building Officials Association of Florida website, which is available to paid members. Bohnenberger said the position will be advertised until it’s filled, and he hopes to find a qualified person as soon as possible.

    Since Shaffer’s departure, Duennes and consultant John Fernandez have been performing inspections and plan reviews for the approximately 300-375 ongoing projects “that at any time can require inspections,” said building clerk Susan Lonzo.

    Lonzo said three to eight permits — electrical, building, demolition, fence, to name a few — are typically issued every day. Last week, there was a backlog of 18 permits “that have not even been looked at,” she said.

    Although, 95 permits were issued, she added.

    “Joe’s doing everything,” Lonzo said. “And that’s not his only job. He is the supervisor over code enforcement, all of public works and the building department.

    “To expect that things will run as they did, you just can’t,” she said.

    Mayor Rich Bohnenberger agreed, although he pointed out foreman Gary Blunden handles most of the administrative responsibility for public works. As far as code enforcement, he said, any city employee can assist the code officer by taking a complaint.

    “We’re in no worse shape now than when somebody goes on vacation,” Bohnenberger said.

    Before Shaffer’s termination, Bohnenberger said he was planning to send both he and Jan Gorman, code enforcement clerk, to school to assist in code enforcement.

        Last week, he said, “After three years of telling me she’s going to retire, she’s now telling me she’s really going to retire this year.”

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