Saturday, June 23, 2018

Challenges After the Storm


Director of Community Affairs, Daniel Smith looks over suggestions from Lisa Lee Loewer, Customer Service Supervisor. Betty Larson, Administrative Technician for the Building Services Department, looks on. Photo by Steve Stefanides

Director of Community Affairs, Daniel Smith looks over suggestions from Lisa Lee Loewer, Customer Service Supervisor. Betty Larson, Administrative Technician for the Building Services Department, looks on. Photo by Steve Stefanides

For members of the City of Marco Island’s various departments, gearing up for an impending event such as Hurricane Irma is a monumental effort. Preparing for the potential onslaught of a Category 3 or 4 hurricane was serious business and the lives of residents who chose not to evacuate the island was foremost in their minds.

Now that the storm has passed and the recovery efforts are well underway, residents are digging out from the aftermath of the storm. The emphasis has now turned to making the necessary repairs to homes, businesses and condos across the island. With that associated damage has come a swarm of contractors looking to offer their services and products to islanders.

“One of our top priorities lies with insuring our residents are made aware of the need to confirm contractors are appropriately licensed and insured to be doing business here,” said Dan Smith, the Director of Community Affairs for Marco Island. Smith’s responsibilities range from environmental issues, to Building Services and to Growth Management.

Smith’s office is encouraging residents to check with Collier County and its Licensing Board which oversees licensing in the county or the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to determine if a contractor is licensed and insured, in addition to whether they have complaints or violations on his/her record. The hiring of a licensed contractor is the direct responsibility of the homeowner, and as such the homeowner is accountable for all outcomes associated with the contractor’s work. This is especially important when work is done within a condominium, where non-code compliant work can affect adjoining units.

Marco Island City Council recently waived fees for obtaining certain permits which relate to hurricane damage. This was done in an effort to ease some of the financial burden on residents. They did not waive the necessity to acquire those permits. “A requirement for a permit helps to protect a resident in more than one way. It helps to insure the contractor has the necessary licenses and will follow the city and state codes relative to minimum building standards,” said Smith.

Raul Perez, who serves as the city’s Chief Building Inspector also urges caution in understanding the role of an inspector for the city. “Their role is not to be a clerk of the works regarding a project, but instead to insure the regulations regarding minimum codes are adhered to. This may include the use of proper tie downs for roof rafters, proper electric connectors, sizing of wiring in addition to set back requirements, amongst many other codes and standards. A building inspector is not meant to be a quality control agent for an owner. That is the responsibility of the owner or his representative to oversee those issues,” said Perez.

Another challenge which concerns Smith lies with the ability of his department to deal with the onslaught of permit and inspection requests as a result of damage from the storm. “I don’t doubt for a minute that our people are not going to do an outstanding job, but there are only so many hours in the day. These next months will create a great challenge for the staff and we should be prepared to make the necessary adjustments if called for,” said Smith. “We are also at risk for losing our personnel as better paying opportunities for their skills may be offered to them by other agencies in the area,” continued Smith.

It is anticipated by both county officials, the City of Naples and Marco officials that the increases in activities may mirror those of the 2003-2006 era which saw huge increases in building and related requirements for permits and inspection. However, the skill sets necessary to meet those demands were present at the time in Southwest Florida, but vacated the area after the downturn in the economy in 2008.

Both Perez and Smith would continue to urge residents to be extremely cautious when seeking quotations and entering into contracts that require large upfront payments and urge residents to do their due diligence when picking a contractor.

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