Changes in the way Columbia County does business with the building industry have hit a few rough patches as of late, but it seems these issues are being ironed out, one wrinkle at a time.
The sudden departure in October of Development Services Director Richard Harmon – an exit that has never been fully explained – left a gap in leadership and his department in a bit of disarray. The county swiftly moved to make Paul Scarbary the interim director, a move that was quietly made permanent last month.
Scarbary, by all accounts is highly respected manager and well qualified for the job. He has years of experience supervising both residential and commercial construction, holds a general contractor’s license and a degree in construction management from Georgia Southern University.
It’s what he doesn’t have that became and issue recently -- qualification as a Certified Building Official. The title signifies that the holder has studied and obtained a certain level of compentency in construction and building codes in a broad array of disciplines, including plumbing, electrical and mechanical trades. Last week, the county’s Construction Advisory Board voted to ask the commission to make the CBO a requirement for Scarbary’s position.
Board Chairman Mark Herbert said the vote was not a criticism of Scarbary, but out of concern for county residents. In a Jan. 31 letter to Administrator Scott Johnson, Herbert said “the person who holds the position needs to be a Certified Building Official, also the CBO needs to be in charge of interpretations of the Building Codes.”
Herbert explained that without that the county could be in danger of having a reduced ISO rating, which in turn could result in higher insurance rates for homeowners.
“This is why we have to protect our Building Department. We have spent too many years building it with educated Inspectors that need the assurance of their Building Official backing them up on their decisions,” Herbert’s letter said.
But according to the county’s job description for the Development Services Director, being qualified as a Certified Building Official is “desired,” but not required for the person who holds the job. Neither is it required by state law.
Johnson, who tapped Scarbary for the post, is more than satisfied with his qualifications and has tasked him with guiding the department through a re-examination of practices and procedures.
Many of the department’s problems were aired by Johnson in a meeting with the building community in October, which ruffled a few feathers. He cited numerous examples of regulations being ignored or not enforced, resulting in serious financial costs for taxpayers.
For a moment it seemed like construction board members were ready to push commissioners on the CBO issue, but after a frank discussion in an open meeting Thursday, the board agreed to drop the matter and move on.
Board members voiced their support and respect for Scarbary, who told them he was eager work with them on the many issues that needed to be addressed.
“If we are going to advance together, we are going to have to trust each other,” Scarbary said.
So, now Scarbary has a big job ahead and the construction board appears ready to work with him.
That, to me, seems like a good thing for the residents of Columbia County.