After years of having its permitting process done through Palm Beach County and hiring numerous different code enforcement officials with arguable results, the Town of Loxahatchee Groves has hired a contractor to transition the town to oversee its own permitting and code enforcement.
On Tuesday, Aug. 17, representatives of SAFEbuilt, the town’s new permitting and code enforcement contractor hired in July, reported on its progress transitioning into the town and introduced key local staff members.
The council hired SAFEbuilt in July to provide code enforcement, provided previously by another contractor, and permitting, which has been provided through the county.
SAFEbuilt is headquartered in Colorado with offices in 10 states. The Florida office is in Fort Lauderdale. The company (www.safebuilt.com) provides full-service building department services, including plan review, inspections, code compliance, building officials and permit technicians.
“We’re here tonight to give you an update on our building and our code operations,” said SAFEbuilt Account Manager Robin Verse, who explained that the initial contract was an interim one to cover the transition process.
Despite staffing issues due to illness within the company, Verse said a member of her staff will be in the town three days a week, eight hours a day to help do all the administrative functions under the transition plan.
“He will be responsible for coming in and reviewing the fee schedules, developing the building department forms, policies and procedures, communications that would go out to the community and any software tools that we implement,” Verse said.
She said the next step would be to set up a meeting with county staff to begin the permitting transition process in a few weeks.
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb introduced SAFEbuilt’s John Herring, who has 12 years of experience in code enforcement and enforcing regulatory rules for construction.
“He will be the town’s onsite code enforcement officer under the interim contract in place,” Titcomb said.
Herring said he has been working in the town and has learned a lot about the community, adding that he would prefer e-mail or messaging to record complaints or questions.
Titcomb said a code extension had been added to the town’s telephone system and efforts are underway to register online comments. However, the state legislature this past year eliminated anonymous complaints, except in narrow circumstances.
Herring said that under a recent state statute, a person must give their name, address and phone number or e-mail address. “It has to be on there in order to make an official complaint,” he said.
Councilwoman Marianne Miles said she was glad to see Herring in the town.
“We have issues that need to be worked on,” Miles said. “One is notifying residents of what they can and cannot do in Loxahatchee Groves. That’s part of the issue, because everybody thinks that they can do anything they want to.”
Mayor Robert Shorr asked about the transition to the SAFEbuilt software, and Titcomb said the town is going to adapt the new software system.
“We’re going to use the data and information that we’ve built in our own database to populate that system, so that their procedural systems are seamless to our needs and our data,” Titcomb said.
Shorr said the goal looks to be Nov. 1 as the date for complete transition off the county system, except complaints that have originated with the county.
Verse confirmed that the cutoff from the county will be Nov. 1.
“We want a very clean cut with the county,” she said. “Those discussions have not happened yet.”
Aug. 30 is the start date for the building official, who is from Okeechobee County and is very familiar with rural codes.
“He has a very in-depth knowledge with rural communities,” Verse said. “He’s going to be running administrative work under the interim contract… running fee schedules, helping you guys get those resolutions adopted, coming up with policies and procedures, and getting communications up on the web site.”
She added that the new software should streamline the process, enabling code officers to be out in the field more.
“They will have office hours, but you’ll see them out in the field doing many more inspections than processing paperwork,” Verse said.