Creating Local Inspection Unit

The process by which developers of commercial buildings in Belmont County get their structures inspected to ensure they meet building codes does not appear to make a lot of sense:

Instead of calling a locally based inspector, contractors must call Washington County for one. That can cause delays.

There have been no reports of Washington County officials complaining, however, and for good reason. Because they have a contract with Belmont County to provide building inspection services, they earn fees for the work.

More than a year ago, Belmont County commissioners discussed establishing their own inspection department. Contractors liked the idea. So did the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which pointed out use of Washington County inspectors delays some projects.

At that time, we suggested that if a Belmont County building inspection system could be put in place without costing taxpayers or contractors more money, it ought to be done.

And there the matter languished for many months.

This week, Belmont County Commission President Mark Thomas told county Board of Health members the idea is back on the front burner.

Commissioners plan to include funding for a building inspector in their 2018 budget, Thomas explained.

Far from being a cost concern, an inspection department could earn money for the county, Thomas suggested. Most development in East Ohio is occurring in Belmont County, he noted.

Delay in creating the system is not entirely county officials’ fault. When the issue was being discussed last year, they advertised for building inspectors — but could get no qualified applicants. Perhaps this time around, they should begin now to solicit applicants.

Some people are leery of alleged no-brainer ideas by government officials. Too often, they turn out to be one more burden on taxpayers. This one seems to be clear, however. If commissioners can, at no cost or even by gaining some revenue, make life easier for contractors and developers, now is a good time to do it.