Belmont County Officials Inspect Options For Code Enforcement

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton speaks as he reviews a document during a Wednesday meeting during which commissioners voted to terminate an agreement with Washington County’s building department.

Belmont County Commissioners J.P. Dutton, Josh Meyer and Mark Thomas announced changes in the county’s system of building inspection Wednesday when they terminated a 2011 agreement to allow Washington County to exercise enforcement authority in accordance with the Ohio Building Code.

Belmont County has contracted with Washington County to provide building inspections. In prior meetings, the commissioners have said Washington County has seen an increase in inspection revenue is a result of Belmont County’s growth.

“We’re ending our agreement with Washington County,” Dutton said, adding that the board of commissioners has heard complaints regarding the level of services.

The termination will take effect in 30 days. After that, individuals interested in constructing a building will be required to work through the state. Builders currently have the option of working through the state or Washington County.

“We’re doing everything we can to put a tool in the toolbox to try and make that process as smooth as possible for folks that want to improve properties and create new structures,” Dutton said.

Although there is no current plan to create a Belmont County Building Department, that possibility has been mentioned since 2017. Dutton said they were looking into how other building departments conduct business, with the possibility of working through another building department that would provide better service.

Meanwhile, Richard Hord of Martins Ferry asked the commissioners to comment on the recent State of the Union address, particularly regarding the subject of infrastructure and the possibility of some federal alleviation of the problem.

“How serious is the infrastructure problem in Belmont County?” Hord asked.

“Infrastructure is horrendous nationwide,” Dutton said, adding that this is a problem that politicians across the aisle have taken an interest in, and committees addressing infrastructure at the federal levels are very bipartisan in nature. “Infrastructure is generally something both parties can get behind.”

Dutton said Belmont County will continue to address its infrastructure as much as possible with the funding at its disposal.

“Any funding that will come from the federal government will be very much welcome, as it is with the state and others. We very much need to address our road system,” Dutton said, adding that the county is already making strides in securing funding for sewer upgrades and applying for more funding for water system upgrades.

“There’s numerous things …There’s a list that we work on every day,” Dutton said.

The county also entered into an agreement with Mastermind LLC in an amount not to exceed $16,800, for a Speed Zone study on 14 county roads. The study will be funded 90 percent by federal funds through a safety grant, while 10 percent by Motor Vehicle Gas Tax funding.

Thomas said in order to change a speed on a county road, the county must first schedule a study. He added that while county roads are 55 miles an hour unless marked otherwise, there are many roads that cannot be safely traveled at those speeds.

“In order to change that speed, a study has to be done, per the statute,” he said.

“We get calls all the time about speeders from people wanting us to put up speed limit signs. It’s not as easy as putting up a sign. We’ve got to do a study and have it approved by (the Ohio Department of Transportation),” Belmont County Engineer Terry Lively said, adding that the cost of each speed study will be about $1,200. “We’ll see if they warrant a reduction in speed, then we’ll go through the process.”

He said the speed levels will be reduced to various different speeds as appropriate to the roads. The study may begin before the end of September, and changes in speed limits put in place in the fall.