Building department responds to community

Holmes Beach building department
Holmes Beach Building Official Jim McGuinness shows forum attendees how many codes the department's employees must learn and enforce. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – The city’s building department staff is reaching out, hoping to improve communication between the department and the community.

About a dozen people showed up, along with members of city staff and elected officials, to the first in a series of community forums hosted by the building department. Building Official Jim McGuinness said he hopes to have several public forums, both for construction professionals and community members, to help answer questions and clarify the department’s processes.

During the Nov. 14 forum, primarily geared toward residential property owners, McGuinness and other members of the department’s staff discussed how the department works and what services are offered to the community.

“Our mission statement is what we live every day,” McGuinness said. The mission statement the department operates under says, “It is the mission of the building department to administer quality construction that enhances the lives of the citizens of Holmes Beach. We will achieve this by continually raising the levels of cooperation and mutual benefit with those we serve.”

In his introduction, McGuinness said the purpose of the department and the enforcement of the building codes its staff work with is “to protect health, safety, and welfare in built environments.” Regarding the structural integrity of buildings, particularly homes, he said, “It’s our duty to make sure it’s built correctly to protect your life in the event of a storm. You don’t appreciate it until you need it. The goal for every house we permit is a safe house.”

Ideally, all homes built to code after 1992 in Florida should be able to withstand a category three storm, he said.

What needs a permit

Senior Plans Examiner Joe Aukstikalnis presented attendees with a quick overview of the types of home improvement and renovation projects requiring a permit from the department for completion. Examples of these projects include new roofs, replacement of windows and doors, ramps or elevated walkways, irrigation system installation, water heater replacement and air conditioner replacement.

Items not requiring a permit include painting, installation of wallpaper, flooring, shelving, home alarm systems and cabinet installation.

A full list is available at the building department counter at city hall or by contacting [email protected]

Picking a contractor

Another item up for discussion was how to select a reputable contractor. Permit Supervisor Angie Birdwell suggested property owners obtain multiple bids before selecting a contractor. Once a contractor is selected, she said it’s important to get a written contract detailing the work to be done, materials being used and the cost associated with the project. Property owners also can ask to see the contractor’s license, a list of completed projects and proof of insurance. The city requires contractors to retain a current license, along with liability and workers comp insurance to work in Holmes Beach.

Warning signs a contractor may not be licensed include asking for large down payments or payment in cash, asking the property owner to obtain a permit and not providing a copy of their license.

Professional inspections

Complicated structures and those larger than a single family or duplex must receive an inspection from building department staff before the structure can be occupied. Inspector Roy DeMauney said the benefit of having a professional inspection done on a property is that it ensures the structure was built to code and everything on the plans was executed correctly by the builder.

Flood-proofing a home

With all of Anna Maria Island in a flood zone, McGuinness closed out the night with tips on how to flood-proof a home. His first suggestion is to elevate the home, placing flood openings on the bottom level. Another option is to relocate the home, but he said that can’t be successfully accomplished in Holmes Beach because of the widespread risk of flooding. The third option is to dry flood-proof or seal the home to prevent flooding. For this to work, the home has to be structurally sound and free of cracks. The final option is to wet flood-proof by elevating inhabited areas during a storm and allowing water to enter and exit vulnerable areas during flooding.

For more information on the building department or its policies, call 941-708-5800 or visit Monday through Friday at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.