Posted on

Abby to look for new building inspector

All it took was a few photos of dilapidated buildings and slapdash construction projects to convince members of the Abbotsford city council Monday to have city staff start looking for a new building inspector.

DPW Craig Stuttgen, who currently handles the issuing of building permits for the city, presented council members with several examples of what happens when residents don’t follow proper construction practices or allow buildings to fall into disrepair.

Stuttgen said people will sometimes fill out a building permit in a way that does not accurately reflect the work they plan on doing. In one case, a permit for replacing a deck and a set of steps was used to build a lean-to garage onto a house.

“When I go back to look at it, I don’t want to put my name on it. I don’t want to say I approved it,” he said. “We need someone who is actually qualified.”

Simple projects like replacing windows or siding can be handled by filling out a permit application at city hall, Stuttgen said. However, any project that changes the footprint of a building, such as an addition, needs to meet uniform dwelling codes (UDC), which requires inspections by a UDC-certified inspector, he said.

For commercial buildings, the owner needs a state-approved plan in order to get a building permit, Stuttgen said, but that doesn’t always happen.

City administrator Dan Grady said he recently asked police chief Jason Bauer to put a stop to an ongoing construction project at a commercial business in the city that is clearly not following proper building codes. He said the city needs state-approved plans before it will approve a building permit.

A certified inspector could also be called upon to help determine which buildings need to be condemned and torn down due to public health and safety concerns, Stuttgen said.

In many cases where a building is obviously unusable or uninhabitable, Stuttgen said property owners will work with the city to get it torn down. However, if a property owner refuses to remove an unsafe building, Grady said the cost of doing so could eventually be placed on the owner’s property taxes.

Likewise, the cost of inspections may initially fall on the city in some situations, Grady said, but the money can be recouped through special tax assessments on proeprty owners.

“If we hire a building inspector to do some of this stuff, we will get our money back, it may just not be today,” he said. “It may be two years from now.”

Ald. Brent Faber suggested rewriting the city’s building permit ordinance to make it clear that property owners have to pay the cost of inspections for projects that require UDC compliance.

Grady said the city currently uses a building inspector in Medford to handle some inspections, but he is often busy with other clients and is not certified to inspect commercial buildings.

Council members asked Grady and Stuttgen to look for available commercial building inspectors and come back with options for discussion at the committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 18.

The goal is for the council to vote on hiring a new inspector at its next regular meeting on Jan. 6.

Other business

_ Mayor Lori Voss told the council that a city employee recently experienced a serious workplace injury and will not be able to work for three to four months.

_ Grady told the council that he and Voss recently chose a new health insurance plan for city employees that will save the city about $6,000 next year. Grady and library director Jenny Jochimsen are currently the only two employees who get insurance through the city.

_ Grady said the city’s newest employee, Justin Meyer, recently passed two water treatment exams administered by the Wisconsin DNR. The two additional certifications resulted in him getting a $1 per hour raise (50 cents each).

_ The council approved a special election on April 7, 2020, for filling a seat recently vacated by Ald. Jeremy Totzke. The election will be held on the same day as the regularly scheduled spring elections, when Alds. Brent Faber, Lori Huther, Dennis Kramer and Roger Weideman will also be up for re-election.

The person who wins the election for Totzke’s seat will serve a one-year term, while the others on the ballot will serve full two-year terms.

_ The council approved a resolution of appreciation for Totzke’s years of service on the council.

_ The council appointed Ald. Roger Weideman as the city’s new permanent representative on the Central Fire and EMS board. Ald. Jim Weix was named the alternate for a term ending in April of 2020.

_ The council approved a $55,700 contract with MSA Professional Services for designing and bidding out a road and utility extension of Industrial Park Road, which will run across the railroad tracks west of STH 13 and into an area available for future development.