Home improvement and building projects in La Porte City should become a little easier to accomplish in 2016, thanks to action taken by the City Council on December 28, during their final meeting of 2015. In a move designed to streamline the building permit process, the Council adopted two ordinances that help redefine the City’s building code. These changes are expected to make a significant impact on building permit requirements in La Porte City.
Explaining the reasoning for the building permit review, Mayor David Neil said, “After reviewing the permit and inspection data from 2014, it became obvious to the Council and myself that the city was requiring permits that were not needed. After reviewing how other cities our size handled building permits and inspections, it was decided to make a change.”
To be sure, the issuing of permits and the inspections that accompany them is an effort not to be taken lightly. City officials began the revision of the Building Code and procedures related to permits and inspections with several goals in mind:
Permits should be required for the projects that matter, those critical to insure public safety.
From beginning to end, the process should be convenient and streamlined for permit holders.
Where possible, red tape should be reduced or eliminated, including permit requirements for projects that are more about repairs and less about making significant changes to an existing structure.
The City needs to provide oversight and follow-up that will ensure a greater number of building projects in La Porte City receive and pass a final inspection.
It should be noted that the actual building code used by the City, the 2006 edition of the International Building Code, will not be affected or changed by the ordinances passed by the Council last month. Rather than rewrite the code, the ordinances simply identify work the City now considers exempt from permit requirements.
Previously, La Porte City issued separate building permits in four main areas- Building, Plumbing, Mechanical and Electrical. Inspections were conducted by the City of Waterloo, in accordance with a 28E agreement that was in place with the City of La Porte City.
As the City reviewed the requirements for each of the permits it issues, questions began to arise. For example, is it really necessary to require a permit to install a washing machine or sink? In 2015, a $5 permit for each of those jobs was required in La Porte City. Moving forward, those installations, along with several other plumbing-related jobs, will be now exempt from permit requirements.
Another significant change made by the City involves electrical permits, which will now be administered and inspected by the State of Iowa (see sidebar).
As part of the comprehensive building code review, the City has now given both the City Clerk and Deputy Clerk authority to issue and monitor building permits. Previously, permits were only issued during the part-time hours the Building and Zoning Administrator was available.
With the City no longer contracting with Waterloo for inspection services, the City Council has also announced the appointment of Mike Strubel as the City’s building permit inspector, and Sam Weich, who will inspect the work associated with mechanical permits.
As these changes take effect, area residents and contractors with questions or concerns about building permits are encouraged to contact City Hall at 342-3396. Mayor Neil noted that the City will continue to monitor the permit and inspections process, making changes as needed.
“As we go forward, we will continue to review our processes, make any needed changes with an eye on being customer-friendly to the citizens,” he said.
In La Porte City, permits and inspections related to electrical work is managed by the State of Iowa. For additional information, including links to take out and pay for permits, logon to: http://www.dps.state.ia.us/fm/electrician/ElectricalPermits/Electrical_Permits.shtml
Permits and inspections related to building and mechanical (furnace, boiler, water heater) work is managed by the City of La Porte City. For additional information, call 342-3396.