County: Home improvements require permit

WARREN — He drives through the county looking for signs of construction.

“See that? They’re getting new siding,” said Nick Massacci, an enforcer for the Trumbull County Building Inspection Department.

He slows his county truck and turns it around, heading back to a house on Bazetta Road where a portion is covered in protective plastic where the siding has been removed. He gets out of the truck with his smartphone and clicks a few photos.

A couple emerges onto the porch and Massacci spends 10 to 15 minutes explaining they need a permit to keep working on the project. They nod their heads.

“Communication is key, and you have to be kind about it,” Massacci said, getting back into the truck. “They’re going to go in and get a permit.”

Until April last year, the building department relied on its inspectors to spot people doing work without a permit. But with a full-time enforcer, the department more than doubled the amount of stop-work orders it issued and raised permit revenue, compared to the year prior.

In 2017, the department issued 52 stop-work orders. In 2018, it issued 120. And this year, as of May 20, the department issued 54, according to building department records.

The job is generating more money to help the building department fund itself, said Mike Sliwinski, head of the building department. Massacci is paid $20 per hour and is not in the union.

In addition to the funds collected from permits issued normally, the enforcer position is generating penalty fees and driving more people to get permits unsolicited because word is spreading through the community that the county means business when it comes to permits, Sliwinski said.

This “collateral enforcement”“when someone voluntarily comes in to obtain a building permit because their friend or neighbor received a stop-work order and a fine” brought in an estimated additional $13,338 in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018, according to a document prepared by Sliwinski for Trumbull County commissioners.

Extrapolating the first quarter numbers over the year means collateral enforcement will bring in an additional $53,352 for the department in 2019, the document states.

Between April 2018 and and the end of April 2019, Massacci was directly responsible for an additional $24,112 in fees collected for the department, the document states.

In the same time period, Massacci brought 186 separate actions with a property owner or contractor for work being performed without a permit, with 135 of them “brought to conclusion,” meaning a permit was purchased and a fine paid, the document states.

When Massacci spots someone doing work without a permit, he photographs the work and speaks with the owners about the necessary steps to get into compliance.

The person can go in and get a permit later in the day and pay the regular price. But, if they don’t, Massacci will file the information with Sliwinski, who can sign a “stop-work” order the next day. Massacci then posts the order on the door, a copy is sent through the mail and Massacci takes a photograph of the orange order on the door. All of the documentation, including the initial photograph of the work being performed, is added to an electronic file.

Once a stop-work order has been issued, the person can come in and pay for the permit and an additional fine and get back to work. He or she can also appeal the decision.

Massacci said many people think the department is being greedy by searching for people doing the work without a permit. But it is about more than money, Sliwinski and Massacci said.

When someone applies for a permit, he or she gets access to the building standards that are deemed safe by the state building codes, Massacci said. And, they get access to county inspections to ensure the work was done correctly, Massacci said.

“We can really protect the homeowner by coming out to take a look at the work that was done, if they have concerns, and identify problems that are unsafe and may end up costing them more money down the road to have corrected,” Massacci said.

A permit for the most common work — roof replacement, siding, porches and decks — is $50. But if one is caught working without one, the total cost amounts to $161 after the fine, the permit and other fees.

For more information about whether a permit is required, call the department at 330-675-2467 or visit http://www.buildinginspection.co.trumbull.oh.us/.

As construction season heats up, homeowners and contractors should remember to get a permit before work commences, Massacci said. He is out looking for anyone who didn’t.

rfox@tribtoday.com

More information

For more information about whether or not a permit is required, call the Trumbull County Building Inspection Department at 330-675-2467 or visit http://www.buildinginspec tion.co.trumbull.oh.us/.

You need a permit if you…

Are building or installing:

• a new home

• patio, deck or patio cover

• chimneys and fireplaces

• garages and pole barns

• ventilation, heating or air-conditioning supply or exhaust

• swimming pool

• storage shed over 200 square feet

• electrical wiring

• room additions

Are adding or changing:

• dormers, bay windows or other wall openings

• water heater and plumbing

• furnaces or any other parts of the heating and gas system

• circuits or any other parts of the electrical system

• walls to a porch

• a garage to livable area

• fireplaces

Are replacing or repairing:

• roofing

• siding

• termite work

• foundation

• porches

Are demolishing:

• Any structure, or part of a structure, or any other changes that affect the structure of any building

SOURCE: Trumbull County Building Inspection Department

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