HB building official resigns, mayor explores options

Holmes Beach building official John Fernandez severed contractual ties with the city effective Dec. 26, leaving no one at city hall to sign permits.

In a letter to Mayor Carmel Monti dated Dec. 19, Fernandez said he’d fulfilled the intent of the short-term position for which he was hired, and offered to help the city in the future as a citizen if needed.

“I feel the department and the city have all bases covered with three options,” Monti said about Fernandez’s departure and a state requirement that a certified building official city-issued building permits and plans.

“First of all,” Monti said, “We don’t need someone on staff. We have (public works superintendent and building official) Joe Duennes until February. We can use him.”

He said Duennes already has signed off on permits in progress.

Duennes tendered his termination letter in November to then-mayor Rich Bohnenberger. While Duennes’ last day was Nov. 16, he is on the city’s payroll until mid-February, using up accumulated time off.

Monti said other options include asking Manatee County for assistance and possibly hiring a building consulting firm, such as the one used by Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen said she understood the city of Anna Maria offered to assist Holmes Beach “if it was in a pinch.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the best option was asking Manatee County for help.

Bohnenberger hired Fernandez as a consultant July 1 to assist on Federal Emergency Management Agency issues.

In a letter dated June 25, Fernandez agreed to perform services until Sept. 30 at a rate of $32 an hour, not to exceed 65 hours. Fernandez said he worked more than 36 hours a month, and also donated some time.

“The reason I came aboard originally was to sort of keep things going while Joe was here, and to help out with people on vacation,” Fernandez said, adding, “It turned into more hours than I really wanted.”

Last week, building clerk Susan Lonzo said she spoke to Duennes, and he agreed to lend his signature to meet the state’s requirements for city building plans.

Florida’s Business and Professional Regulation director of communications Sandi Copes Poreda agreed with the arrangement.

“It is our understanding that Mr. Duennes is the building official until his departure in February,” she said. “The statutes and rules do not mandate the hours a building official must be on duty.”

As of The Islander press time, Duennes did not return a phone call for comment.


Interim building inspector needs certification

Interim building inspector Tom O’Brien applied Jan. 2 for a one-year, non-renewable provisional building code administrator’s certificate to enable him to sign city-issued building permits and plans.

The state of Florida requires a building code administrator or building official to supervise, direct, enforce or perform the permitting and inspection to ensure compliance with the Florida Building Code.

Monti supported O’Brien’s application with a Jan. 2 letter to the DBPR’s Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board. He told the board the city had employed O’Brien as the interim director of building and zoning.

“The intent is that Mr. O’Brien will assume the duties of the retiring building official upon your approval of provisional certification as a building code administrator,” Monti wrote.

In his letter, Monti acknowledged O’Brien’s experience, including holding an architect license since 1990 and a certified building official in 1988 under a prior state licensing board, as consistent with the DBPR requirements.

For the provisional certification, the state board requires 10 years of experience as an architect or other building professional, with five years in supervisory position.

O’Brien was hired in November as a consultant on a four-month contract, with a formal search expected for a permanent replacement for public works superintendent Joe Duennes, who announced his last day Nov. 16.

At a Nov. 29 commission meeting, Commissioner David Zaccagnino pointed out the DBPR did not list O’Brien as having the proper building official certification.

O’Brien responded state law qualifies a licensed architect, such as himself, to perform building code inspection services and plans examination without additional certification.

City attorney Patricia Petruff then asked O’Brien to clarify the licensing interpretation with the DBPR.

According to DBPR’s Poreda, after Duennes leaves the city, “the city will need a licensed building code administrator, which is a separate license from an architecture license.”

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