Belmont County plans to create building department in 2018

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Commission President Mark Thomas said Monday the county intends to renew its efforts next year to create a building department to conduct construction inspections at commercial sites in the county.

Thomas made his remarks at the Belmont County Board of Health’s monthly meeting. The board had invited Thomas to give an update on its recommendation that the county establish a certified plumbing inspector’s position.

He said when the 2018 budget process begins later this month, the commission intends to set aside funds to create a building department. An issue, he said, is the county would have to have certified people in place — but not yet hired — to run the department when it receives approval to operate.

The commission wants “to start this department and take advantage of all the growth in Belmont County,” he said, adding, “The prospective growth for this county is going to be very, very good.”

Currently, Belmont County contracts with Washington County, Ohio, for building inspections. Thomas said Washington County’s biggest increase in inspection revenue is a result of Belmont County’s growth.

He said, “The growth in East Ohio has, for the most part, been in Belmont County. We want to continue to be the leader.”

The revenue stream from a county building department and the resulting streamlined process for developers would be “a ‘win-win’ for everyone,” Thomas said. A goal, he added, “is making Belmont County as business-friendly as possible.”

Thomas said, “In the end, I’ve always taken the position — and I think my colleagues are on board — that we’ve got to take care of ourselves. We at least have to make that conscious effort to do this on our own.”

In March 2016, the health board agreed to explore the possibility of contracting with the county commission to hire a certified plumbing inspector. Currently, plumbing inspections in the county are performed by state inspectors.

Board members Joel Braido and Dwight Jenewein have said contractors complain about long delays in getting plumbing inspections done by state authorities.

Under Ohio law, a health department receives revenue generated from county plumbing inspections. Braido asked Thomas to share estimates for annual income that a county program would create for the health department.

Thomas said the county commission has looked at creating a building department for two years, but the project has languished. He said the commission advertised for positions in 2016, but could not get qualified individuals to respond. This year, he said he didn’t raise the issue until May or June to allow new Commissioners Josh Meyer and J.P. Dutton time to become acclimated.