Building codes

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:52 am

oh...sounds like a political rather than a functional discussion...I don't have much to say about that.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Mark_Henry on Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:28 pm

The national codes are often adopted by small towns like Rumford as a means of saving money. It can take commissions hundreds, or even thousands of hours to draft similar codes, and since these commissions are often comprised of novice members the codes they propose may be flawed, inaccurate, unenforceable or overly burdensome in their own right. It becomes easy, therefore, to simply adopt what is already seen as acceptable boilerplate. However, as Kevin and others have pointed out, due diligence and a careful review are needed less unneeded regulations, like for open water fishing or oyster harvesting in a land locked municipality, make its way into the books.

As to the question of fair and equitable application; the law stands and must be applied to all buildings, new or existing. While this will create a financial burden on building owners, it will provide a safer living and working environment. Costs such as these are routinely passed onto tenants (when possible) and should be an expected cost for tenement owners as any other capital improvement would be. Keep in mind that depending on the nature of the investment these improvements should also be tax deductible as well.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:48 pm

Thanks for your info Mark. Everything I've read to date says that codes are only valuable when the people enforcing the codes are kept up to date with regular training. It becomes a pretty small group since the book alone on the codes lists for $90.00. Someone told me yesterday that this difficulty in accessing information is how lobbyists with construction-related interests ensure their own livelihoods. Still thinking it all over.

Under the topic of fair and equitable application I see that you wrote that the law stands and must be applied to all buildings, etc. I understand you to be stating the status quo. I wonder if there really is room for innovation or interpretation in the codes, as the maine.gov site says there is. If so, does any of that leeway provide for any of the situations here in Rumford? If the code is so complicated, how would we know?

Is the code we adopted too strict vs. the ICC? Maybe as Kevin suggests the only suggestion is governmental intervention... I usually think saying it's governmental control puts us in an unempowered position and then we're just talking for nothing...that's why I'm staying away from the political aspect. (not that it doesn't exist)
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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Oct 04, 2008 6:15 pm

Timeout,
How can you stay out of the political aspect of a political process?? Kevin
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 04, 2008 6:42 pm

Is that a rhetorical or a sincere question? If it's sincere (why does that make me think of the Great Pumpkin?) then I'd say how much government regulation we do or do not need seems too broad a topic. You are more than welcome to discuss it...hope I didn't imply that you weren't. That's what I refer to as political discussion, maybe there's another way for me to say it? No matter, you probably get my drift.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:14 am

Okay, back once again to building codes. What is the purpose of a building code? To ensure safety, to provide uniformity or a standard to measure that safety by, etc., etc. I have failed to read where the purpose is to eliminate Section 8 from Rumford. I can't help but think people do, however, intend to use it that way.

Besides the general outcry that people on Section 8 do drugs (so do a lot of people even in our town govt...oops...let's not talk about that...good luck with the drug testing policy), let's not ignore that a large segment of our population wants to use the building code to regulate the types of people we have here.

I'd like to avoid (yes, Kevin, avoid) the ethical or moral aspect surrounding section 8 and whether or not they have a right to live anywhere at all, and focus on what the implications are of losing "those kinds" of people in our community. Anyone want to make a list of what Section 8 actually BRINGS to Rumford? How about filled apartment buildings? Only profiting those from out of state you say? Not hardly - look at the addresses and the tax map and see who owns what - some of the absolutely worst apartment buildings are owned by our own River Valley residents. Nice to make generalizations, and yes, they sound good but look at the facts first. What else does section 8 fill? They shop locally (for sure)...anyone want to add to the list? I don't want to make the whole list by myself and yes, there are financial positives.
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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:41 pm

Timeout,
Please don't ignore the costs associated with section 8. How about the cost of multi-children families attending school? Yes, their rent contributes to the tax base, but it hardly offsets the additional cost of educating their children. I am not against section 8, but if our town is too attractive to families who use section 8, we may end up with a school system that costs more than the taxpayers can afford. I wonder if the state's education reimbursement formula takes into account the number of section 8 assisted families in a community.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Chuck on Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:48 pm

Are you saying that part of the reason for introducing this building code is to remove section 8 people from this town?
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:42 pm

Omg - I don't think the property taxes I pay cover the costs of sending my two children to school...should I keep one of them home? Lol...schools just never are profitable...what to do?

Kevin, all we hear about are the costs of section 8 - some true, some not. Just wanted to put it out there that I believe most people voted for the stricter building code in hopes of eliminating Section 8 tenants. Sometimes we can't solve a problem if we don't see how we created it for ourselves in the first place. Sometimes short term solutions (we are famous for them) cost a lot in the long run. Some costs cannot be measured. Yes we pay taxes to cover them but we will pay the taxes whether they rent and buy here or not.

Those who struggle have been with humanity forever...pregnant women, single parents, families with small children, the addicted, the mentally ill, the poor, the homeless, the criminals, the down and out. Christians believe they are supposed to teach us love, service, humility and gratitude...this is what keeps me positive most of the time...but for the grace of God go I...today I am healthy, I have two healthy children, great friends, a house, a car that runs, a full tank of oil to start the winter, food to eat and a little to spare for another...plus a roll of duct tape to fix whatever breaks next. Thank you God.
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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:41 am

I think the current building code was accepted by voters because they recognized a need and this was all that was offered to them. Don't some of these codes only become effective only if there is a "change of use" or renovations? In the case of the apartment building with the narrow stairway, is that a multi-family building? Would making the building a single family put the stairway in compliance? Those who have an excessive amount of violations would naturally be under more scrutiny than those who are doing their best to comply. It's awful to say, but I'm going to anyway. I think our run down buildings that are either section 8 or low rent are attracting people who aren't adding anything to our community. I'm quite sure the increase in crime and drugs is concentrated or originating from the "slum" areas. I went along apartment hunting with a friend last year and was horrified. Some of these apartments were so bad I didn't even want to be in them for 5 minutes, let alone consider visiting my friend there! We seem to have many families with either parent or single parents not working who are just living off the "system". If you look at areas such as Bethel you'll notice they don't have any slum areas which makes their community more attractive (and appear safer) to people passing through which makes them more likely to explore and shop. It also makes it look enticing to those looking to relocate. Getting rid of some of these "slum" areas in our town would benefit community development greatly.
Perhaps even designing a program to combat this problem would be beneficial.
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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Wed Oct 08, 2008 12:07 pm

I think I need to clarify my above post. I read in the SJ about landlords closing down their buildings due to oil costs. One owns 9 buildings, a few of which I had the pleasure (or rather, displeasure) of visiting. The apartments were smelly with broken doors, peeling linoleum or contact paper for countertops and overall, for lack of a better word, nasty. Some of these landlords obviously aren't putting any of their rent money into keeping the inside of these apartments nice and now they are complaining about having to heat them. If these buildings close would it be a bad thing? I think the people who are working and have strong ties to this community will easily find another rent. I am not against section 8 people, I know some are handicapped, disabled, elderly or are simply struggling to make ends meet. I think those people also would easily find a new rent in the area. It's those who aren't even trying that I am opposed to, those who have no community pride, those who won't even pick up their garbage outside or in the halls. It's too bad there wasn't a way to encourage these landlords to fix up their buildings and even raise their rent and have a subsidized program that could involve qualifying tenants in having some control and pride regarding their "home" and encourage involvement in the community. I think our area low rents are attracting people who normally wouldn't live here and probably wouldn't stay if some of these buildings closed.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:30 pm

Section 8: What do we lose?

The approx. cost of educating a student in this area is $7,000. Without the Section 8 population, I believe that cost could rise to approximately $8,000 per student.

It's all in the funding: For example, if we lose fifty Section 8 students one might assume a $350,000 a year savings. If we had 500 students from Rumford and we where paying 3,500,000 a year for education it might be reduced to $3,150,000. Sounds good!! But at $8,000 per student (remember we pay on the formula 75% valuation and 25% students so having fewer students doesn't mean lower school payments) under this formula we could be paying $3,600,000 or $100,000 a year more. How can that be? Wouldn't we be saving money on teacher salaries, etc? My thought is yes, but perhaps not enough to offset the added costs. Remember what we pay the schools is not just student driven:

First, some costs paid by taxes are fixed: We still have to drive the same school bus routes, we still have to heat the school buildings. We still have to have the streets plowed, and ensure adequate fire and police protection.

Second, many of these Section 8 families have special needs and those costs are covered under medicare type programs which would be lost. The town is required by law to replace that loss of services in the school's operating budget.

Third, we would experience a reduction in taxes coming into the community: car registrations, landlord's property taxes, etc.

Fourth, the community would experience indirect loss of revenue and therefore taxes through impact on: Mom & Pop stores, water district, local oil companies, medical-related industry - including pharmacies. (Remember, Section 8 people and apartment owners are big local consumers for these services). Also, a potential loss there could mean fewer people employed in our area as well.

Finally, I would be interested to know exactly how many Section 8 students we have. Are we confusing area poverty with Section 8 rentals? I think the number of Section 8 students is probably much lower than anyone realizes.

I'm not promoting that we run out and get a town full of Section 8. I'm just trying to say we need to think this through with a better understanding of how things work together. The impact of losing Section 8 would be felt throughout the town and may not save any money at all. Let's make sure we're solving the real problem.
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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:40 pm

There's some food for thought- I guess these people might be missed on an economic level. I think though if you give a person a nice place to live they will take pride in it. Similar to the look good feel better theory. In having these slum areas we are setting a standard of sorts that is affecting our economics in another way. Some would say if you give these people something nice they will ruin it anyhow. If it is simply given to them they very well may ruin it. I think if they have choices and an investment in this, they will appreciate it and have pride in it.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:51 pm

I think Section 8 residents get categorized and scapegoated a lot by both sides. Regardless of how the tenants maintain their apartments, it doesn't excuse the landlord from providing a safe environment in which the codes are met. I think some landlords in this section of town have reaped the benefits for many years without reinvesting beyond the bare minimum. Their defense is, "Fine, if we have to play nice, then we will take our ball and go home." Something just isn't quite right here. The town doesn't OWE the landlords a living...just like any other business they have to decide whether it's worth the cost of maintaining that business or not.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Dave on Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:32 pm

Slum areas, in Rumford? Go spend a day in Roxbury, Massachusetts or Bridgeport, Connecticut and then tell me if Rumford has slums.

I know there are parts of town better than others, but let's be real here.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:10 am

Interesting conversations on this topic.

Chuck asked if people thought that part of the reason for enforcing the building codes was to reduce the amount of section 8 / low income people in our community. I'm beginging to wonder now myself.

Do people think this is part of the reason for the strict building codes?
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:19 am

Dave, I think the word "slum" is a matter of perception and word choice. I think that general public perception of these areas is very poor.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:44 am

I think the code was adopted because the average voter was uninformed, and voted with the assumption that our governing boards proposed changes that would better serve the community. Sometimes that is the case. But with this particular set of building codes, homeowners and landlords now face the physically and fiscally impossible tasks of bringing their buildings up to code. We need a custom designed set of codes that leaves room for maintaining existing structures while reasonably ensuring that these buildings meet essential safety requirements.

This was news to me: Our codes enforcement officer informed Mr. O'Brian (44 Prospect) that the basement was considered to be "a story", thus making his three story apartment building actually a four story building, which, if I heard correctly, will mean additional standards to comply with. (Somebody please correct me if I am wrong here.) I would guess there are many unsuspecting building owners in town who are unaware of this.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:13 am

Bug, I think the rehabilitation code is a great idea yet it seems that even statewide there has been inability to make it happen. The perception of fairness comes strongly into play here, i.e., why should Joe have a different set of requirements than Betty?

The building owners might benefit from assistance in creating a list of problems and a realistic timeline to accomplish the goals. I think that timeline for some of these building would take several years. At some point the fact that some buildings have been "let go" doesn't eliminate the need to have them repaired.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:33 am

Thinking out loud...from what I understand, the towns have some leeway in the enforcement of these codes. Is it possible for the town to ask apartment owners to participate in some kind of assessment/upgrade planning? For some it wouldn't be welcome but for those who do want to fix the problems and just aren't getting started or are overwhelmed by what seems to be an evergrowing "to do" list, it could become a resource to tap into. What if participants were given more leeway as long as they were working with and meeting a planned timeline? If they choose not to participate - it's on them.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:46 am

Several someones have suggested to me that the town should just take all those building down. Rationale was that row houses could be built or something like the Bethel Section 8 housing row. True we might gain more tax income on single family dwellings. True the Bethel apartments are prettier.

Who has the interest and cash to invest in this type of project? Is the town attempting to make this happen one building at a time and they are just not stating the vision? What would be the long term benefits vs. costs of razing these areas?

My thought is that economic development isn't just about looking pretty...pretty falls under the marketing portion of economic development.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 11, 2008 7:30 am

Landlords at BOS meetings have sometimes complained they just get one set of issues fixed and then someone tells them there are others that need to be resolved. It can appear understandably frustrating to the landlord and to others.

I think the confusion is because LIFE/SAFETY requirements are looked at first. They are priority.
BUILDING CODE requirements are looked at next. Those requirements need to be met as well.

My thought is that landowners could agree to work with the town on a planning/repair timeline by having both categories assessed first. The fully informed landlord could then decide on a course of action while aware of the scope of work to be done. i.e., no sense in thinking you're okay with just a couple of smoke detectors and then finding out you need an entire roof replacement.

I believe there are grants available for this type of work. I think it would be a worthwhile investment for the town if they are serious about improving housing.
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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:23 am

Why can't the landlord work with the tenants? I find that many tenants are more than willing to do the work when it comes to improving their living environment. If they want to paint their cabinets and wallpaper their kitchen, we buy the materials and they do the work. The materials are deductible and the labor is free. Then the tenant has an investment in the apartment also and is more likely to care for it. Same goes for carpeting and flooring. If a tenant wants to fix our outside stairs or paint the central hallway we work it out with a rent deduction. I think if the landlords had meetings with their tenants they might be surprised at what they could accomplish with little added expense.
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Re: Building codes

Post by m on Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:05 am

If I remember right, back when the building code first came up to be presented to the voters, it was said that the code enforcement officer didn't have legal ground to stand upon, so these codes needed to be adopted. I think we were misled-or misinformed!
Concerning the Sec. 8 tenants, there are those who receive Sec. 8 as a helping hand and there are those who continue to receive the benefit because it's what they were brought up with.
This is my first post to this site. I've enjoyed reading everyone's posts. Very Happy

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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:53 am

Now that we've adopted this code are we stuck with it or can we make amendments to it?
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Re: Building codes

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