County permits being ignored

A growing indifference to acquiring proper building permits within Ward County was one of the issues brought before the Ward County Commission Tuesday. The matter was not resolved.

Mike Larson, Ward County building inspector, told commissioners that a growing number of the building projects within the county have begun without a building permit as required by the county. Larson appeared at the scheduled commission meeting for the purpose of presenting a review of his office’s actions in 2013.

“My biggest concern is that we’ve had 35 of 105 buildings under construction without having first obtained permits. I’ve been pretty lenient with these people,” said Larson.

Despite a third of Ward County’s most recent building projects not having a permit at the outset of construction, Larson finds himself with little leverage other than to provide information to those in violation.

“What amazes me the most is the amount of people that don’t know about a building permit process,” said Larson. “I’ve got people that just don’t comply.”

The state building code has a penalty schedule of $1,500 for those found to be non-compliant. Ward County does not currently have a system of fines in place for violators of building permit requirements. The cost of a Ward County building permit is $4.50 per $1,000 of construction.

“Final inspections is where I find a lot of serious safety concerns,” Larson told the commissioners. “If a building is for human habitation you have to have a permit.”

Common violations, said Larson, include non-working or no relief valves where required, inadequate ceiling height above staircases and improper or lack of a firewall between a house and garage. Larson said he is closely watching as Minot works on a new building permit system, one which may eventually be adopted by the county.

In other business, the commission approved $7,500 for the moving of certain courthouse offices and equipment to make way for future construction. Improvements are scheduled to be made in the courthouse basement which currently houses the juvenile detention center. By mid-February it is expected that Information Technology will move to the basement of the Ward County Jail, Emergency Services and Public Administration to the Ward County Social Services building and election equipment to Longfellow School.

A walkway that will connect the courthouse to a new building under construction to the north of the courthouse will likely require further movement of courthouse personnel and offices in the future. However, that phase of the building project remains several months away.

Following the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting Jerome Gruenberg, chairman, announced that he will not seek re-election in the June 4 primary. Commission seats currently held by Gruenberg and Jerome Fjeldahl will be up for election in the June primary. The commission is comprised of five members.