Could inspections halt building here?

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 11, 2006

New state law could add $10,000 to home price price of home, since program not ready to start


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – The state mandated new building inspections scheduled to begin in Louisiana on January 1, 2007 are now shaping up as a huge problem that could practically halt new residential construction in St. John Parish.

The Louisiana Legislature passed the law in 2005, mandating building inspections for all parishes in the state by 2007.

St. John joined a group of five other parishes regionally under the South Central Planning Commission, which promised inspectors to work the entire region and cut the cost for smaller parishes trying to set up the certified inspection process.

But with only weeks to go until the new law takes effect, local officials agree that St. John and others will not be ready to provide those inspectors.

=The result is that anyone building a new house will be forced to hire their own independent inspectors, something that could cost close to $10,000 per house, according to South Central Planning Commission Chief Executive Officer Kevin Belanger.

&#8220Nobody will be building in the first quarter of 2007 if this system isn’t in place,” St. John builder Jimmie Gooden said. &#8220This is going to be a huge problem since we have contracts already signed, and people who have only qualified for certain levels.

&#8220This was up to the parish to enforce the state law and get it done, so why are we and individual homeowners going to be penalized since they could not be ready in time,” he added.

However Belanger and St. John Director of Zoning and Planning Adrienne Labat lay the blame on the state for not providing the $2 million start-up money needed to get the inspection process ready.

Belanger said the money is needed to train professionals to do the inspections, as well as the computers and technology needed for the system that will cover a six-parish area.

&#8220The state has been widely aware that we’ve been trying to get ready, but we still don’t have the $2 million we need to get the program going,” he said. &#8220Right now we certainly won’t be ready for January, and we’re hoping to be operational by March at this point.”

However that relies on the state coming forth with the money, something that Labat said has been promised for a year.

&#8220We requested the money early in 2006 and they said we would have it, but we still don’t,” she said. &#8220Without it, we can’t begin the inspection program and people will still have to follow state law and get the inspections done themselves. This just didn’t prove to be as simple to put together as we thought.”

While Belanger said he still expects the state to come through with the money, he admitted that &#8220if we don’t have it by February 15, we’ll go to each parish and ask them to put up a share to get started.”

However Labat said that will probably not work either.

&#8220That is just too much money for these parishes to come up with. I don’t see that happening,” she added.