Environmental panel ponders construction inspections changes

·4 min read

Sep. 22—It's been a busy year for building in Cumberland County, with more than 1,300 building permits issued by the city of Crossville.

But commissioners of the Cumberland County Environmental Committee are questioning if it's best to leave building permits and inspections with the city's office — or to have building codes at all.

"I talked to two contractors this week," said Tom Isham, 2nd District commissioner.

One was satisfied with the city codes department and the other wished the county "would do away with them," Isham said.

Wendell Wilson, 6th District commissioner, recalled when the county adopted building codes around 2011.

Commercial building codes were added in 2015.

"Our bankers, our real estate folks came to us and wanted this protection for their people. That's the reason we went that direction," Wilson said.

Isham said he didn't necessarily want to do away with building codes, but said the standards can cost more to implement.

Charles Seiber, 4th District commissioner, said commissioners were told they needed to implement building codes to be eligible for various grants. Surrounding counties have not adopted building codes in their unincorporated areas and have continued to apply for grants, he said.

But that wasn't Seiber's biggest concern. He wanted to know where county citizens can turn if there's a disagreement on a codes decision.

Wilson said he had been approached by a constituent with concerns about the city's codes inspection process. He proposed inviting Danny Thurman, head of the Crossville codes department, to a future environmental committee meeting to explain how the department works, what they look at and processes in place.

The county's agreement with the city only includes new construction and commercial inspections. The current building code was reviewed by the environmental committee and adopted by the commission within the past year.

Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster said, "The city was asking us for stronger codes than the minimums ... we brought the county in line with the bare minimum that the state would allow. We're at the minimum now."

During the 2021-'22 fiscal year, the city issued 372 residential building permits and 10 commercial permits. Fees for county permits and inspections were $422,939 for the year.

Foster said there had been a board to hear appeals. The city has a similar board, but county residents are not eligible to go before that board, he said.

"If we want to create something like that, maybe we could look at the contract or the environmental committee hears appeals," Foster said.

Terry Lowe, 5th District commissioner, asked if it were time for the county to take on the building inspections.

Isham agreed, adding, "The county would be better off doing their own."

Rebecca Stone, 3rd District commissioner, said, "No matter who is running inspections, there needs to be a process for redress."

The panel agreed to invite Thurman to speak to the committee at its next meeting in October.

In other business, the committee recommended changes to the county's official road list:

—extending Mayfair Dr. 35 feet

—removing 1,380 feet at the end of Drew Howard Rd.

Both changes were recommended by the Cumberland County Regional Planning Commission. The changes must also go before the full commission for approval.

Solid Waste Supervisor Conrad Welch updated the committee on the relocation of the Woody Convenience Center.

The current center is in the way of ongoing construction to improve Hwy. 127 N. The county purchased 3.6 acres at 6598 Hwy. 127 N. in December with plans to move the convenience center as quickly as possible.

Welch said the site was approved by the state as a convenience center site on Aug. 12. Clearing has been taking place to remove trees. There is a temporary road at this time, but Welch said the Tennessee Department of Transportation will need to build a permanent road before the center would be operational.

Welch said TDOT has asked that the county vacate the current site by Dec. 12, but the new site is also along the construction area.

Welch is unsure if the new portion of the road in front of the convenience center will be ready by that deadline, but it would be difficult to open a convenience center serving 250-350 cars per day through an active road construction zone.

"If we had to close it, that would be the worst situation, but we hope not to," Welch told the committee.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.