Ordinance receives pushback
By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — The Groveton City Council’s efforts to enact permits and regulations for buildings met with resistance at a recent meeting.
At the regular meeting on Jan. 24, council members were face with a full house of city residents, all of whom felt the proposed ordinances for building codes and inspections, as well as permit requirements, were out of touch with the needs of the community.
Complaints ranged from permitting fees being too exorbitant, to the lack of qualified building inspectors in the area, to the requirement of licensed contractors to perform work, and even the lack of information provided by the city.
David Robison said the city took too big of a bite at the ordinance, and didn’t think through the details.
“This is a very dismal set of ordinances for the city,” Robison said. “This will stifle growth and will harm people. It’s one of the worst things to happen here in a long time.
Robison said there are no licensed trades in the area — no master plumbers, no master electricians; there is no zoning, which is required by the ordinance; and there are no code enforcement officers, or anyone with that kind of training.
This ordinance calls for contractors, but there is no mechanism in place to authorize them; there are no inspectors on staff, so when a water heater goes out, it could be days without water before a contracted inspector will show up.
“You have criminalized replacing your water heater,” he said. “It is a Class C misdemeanor to work on your own house under penalty of a $500 fine and a criminal charge on your record.”
Robison said the ordinances have inadequate definitions throughout, and since they mention health and safety and not specifically building codes, they could be applied retroactively to all structures in the city.
“I think you need to do this incrementally,” he said. “If you take this slowly, it will be much better.”
Mike Due, a local preacher and cabinet maker, said that as he reads the ordinances, it’s onerous lawmaking and against the spirit of independence and cleanup and “let’s make life better” the town.
“I love this community; if you want to talk about the original ‘git r done,’ most folks can fix things in their homes,” Due said. “We are fiercely independent; but everything we can do for ourselves, according to what I read, I will have to get a permit for, even to paint my bedroom inside my house.”
Due said that it was expensive and required a lot of help to renovate the building for his business; if the information in the ordinance was correct, he would have wasted all that because the new law would put him out of business.
“There is no way I could afford to make reparations according to this code,” he said. “Why would you charge us to do (these things)? If you do, then people won’t do them, and the city will continue to run down.”
Glenn Hammond, Groveton fire chief and landlord, said if the city enacts the ordinance, then he will in turn have to charge more for his rentals, which will cause hardship for people, especially those on fixed income.
“If this goes into effect, I’ll have to sell my houses, and who will want to buy them?” he asked.
Carla monk said that she needed to get a leak fixed, and the cost of getting a plumber from Lufkin was going to cost $254 simply for travel, as well as whatever costs for repairs and labor. She called a friend who fixed it in 5 minutes by tightening a screw, and questioned if that made any sense.
“People on fixed incomes cannot afford the cost of repairs, much less permit and inspection fees on top of that,” she said.
Mayor Tommy Walton said that no one on the council is here to damage the city, but none of us want people burning their houses down.
“We want to bring our 2008 standards up to 2018, not the most current, but more current,” he said.
Walton said they city is required by law to do inspections, and did not understand why there were problems with the council seeking to enact ordinances, and was told that the costs and the need for city permission were the problems.
“I don’t want us to be a police state, but I want us to have reasonably current ordinances,” he said. “There is nothing that is engraved in stone; we can do anything within reason.”
He also said he resents that no one contacted the city for any clarifications, and instead relies on gossip and misinformation.
“We have said repeatedly that the ordinances will be modified,” he said. “We know there will be exceptions, and we’ll deal with that when we come to it.”
Council member Joe Don Kennedy recommended tabling the measure so it can be amended to something that is more presentable.
Council members Autumn Dial and Ralph Bennett were picked to begin working on the ordinances, which will be placed on next month’s agenda.
In other business, the council:
•approved a $6,273.90 payment to Inframark for month water maintenance;
•approved an audit report from Todd, Hamaker and Johnson LLP;
•discussed the annual report from Fire Chief Glenn Hammond;
•approved an order for a general election for May 7; and
•approved April 26-27 as 12-hour voting days for the city elections.
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