UDC inspection debate revived in Abbotsford
Nine years after he helped convince elected officials not to enforce the uniform dwelling code (UDC) on older homes in Abbotsford, local contractor Jim Colby was back in front of the city council last week with the same message.
Now that the city is looking at hiring a new building inspector and stepping up enforcement of possible code violations, Colby is worried that the UDC rules will be imposed on the owners of houses built before 1980 who want to do renovations.
Colby made his case to the council at a special meeting held Jan. 15. He said the UDC regulations are “excessive” and end up costing homeowners more money “I’m trying to save the citizens of Abbotsford,” he said. “I, as a contractor, do not benefit one way or another. It just costs more money.”
In August of 2011, after months of back-and-forth debate, the council voted 6-2 to exempt homes built before June 1, 1980, from UDC inspections. That came after Colby presented the council with over 100 signatures on a petition opposing UDC enforcement on older homes.
However, according to city administrator Dan Grady, Abbotsford’s book of ordinances was amended in 2014 based on recommendations from attorney Alan Harvey. As a result, the city’s building code now says UDC rules will apply to all “additions, alterations and major equipment replacements for one and two family dwellings built prior to June 1, 1980.”
Minutes from a city council meeting in September of 2014 show that ordinance revisions were approved, but there was not much discussion ahead of time.
Based on what’s in the ordinance book, Grady said UDC inspections are required if work is done to an older home.
“For example, if you remodel a kitchen, all the plumbing and electrical in the kitchen has to be up to current code,” he said.
Ald. Mason Rachu, however, wondered if that is still the case if a homeowner were to use all licensed contractors to do the work.
“If I want to remodel my kitchen, I don’t think I should have to have an inspector come in,” he said.
Grady said the city’s main goal should be to prevent safety hazards and protect itself from liability by enforcing the codes it has in its ordinance book. He suggested setting a dollar amount that would exempt smaller projects from UDC inspections while still requiring them for major work.
Colby urged the council to remember the public opposition to UDC inspections when the issue came up in 2011. He said it should be up to city officials to pay attention to ongoing construction projects in the city to make sure they are up to code and following their building permits.
Since the issue was only on the agenda for discussion purposes, no action was taken by the council.
In response to questions from DPW Craig Stuttgen, the council agreed to revisit the city’s policy on comp time, which was recently approved as part of a revised employee handbook.
Stuttgen said the nature of his job often requires him to work well over 40 hours in a week, and he’s always been able to take time off the following week to make up for it. However, he does not take it at a rate of time and a half or expect overtime pay, since he is salaried.
Ald. Brent Faber said city officials should not have to keep track of Stuttgen’s hours like they do for hourly employees who work over 40 hours and get time and a half as comp time.
“We’re paying you do a job,” he said. “I don’t care if you work five hours a week or 85 hours a week. Your salary is for what you need to do for that week.”
Grady said he wants a written policy on record so the issue doesn’t keep coming up. Council members suggested having the city attorney work on legal language for that type of a policy.
_ Grady told the council that new garbage and recycling carts from Advanced Disposal should be arriving this week. The carts will be delivered directly to residents, who can leave their old recycling bins on the curb for pickup.
_ The council approved a 75-cent hourly raise for Lt. Alex Bowman of the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department, as recommended by the police commission. The raise will bring his hourly wage to $26.09. Later this year, he will get an additional 9-cent raise for “longevity pay,” which is also provided to other police offi cers as part of their union contract.
Ald. Dennis Kramer said members of the police commission had not previously heard about the longevity pay provision in the union contract, so that’s why approval of Bowman’s raise was tabled at Abbotsford’s last council meeting.
_ The council approved a resolution authorizing Ald. Rachu to sign a FEMA grant application for a storm shelter at the Abbotsford School District. The city is not committing any money to the proposed structure, but FEMA requires a signature from a municipal official.
_ The council approved a resolution authorizing Grady or council president Brent Faber to sign closing documents later this month to purchase a 25-acre parcel of land just west of STH 13 that will be used for a future industrial park.
The council had previously approved a motion to purchase the land from Ann Schmidt for $170,000 plus closing costs.
_ The council approved a total of $906,099 in bills for the months of December and January, which included property tax payments made to local counties and school districts.