The set of laws OKed by the council at their regular meeting do not affect existing structures.
According to Rodney “Cooney” Richard, the former Lafayette building inspector hired as a contractor to inspect here, the various fees to the home or business owner will amount to less than 1 percent of the cost of new construction.
Richard said research by St. Martin Parish Government’s zoning and planning coordinator Calder Hebert showed that he was the cheapest such contractor in the state.
The council granted Richard a three-year contract to review building plans and inspect the work.
The move was opposed by SMILE Community Action Agency manager Paulma Johnson, who pointed out that the city has the right to utilize its own inspectors. Johnson has steadfastly opposed the inspection fees as a hardship on the city’s poor.
“All you have to do is look around and see the economic situation this city is in,” he said.
Mayor Thomas Nelson said the city tried to keep building inspections under the state-mandated law in-house but didn’t have the qualified personnel.
“We sent four or five people to school and they really tried but they had no experience,” Nelson said. “It’s tough.”
Richard, who framed houses for nearly three decades before becoming a building inspector for the City of Lafayette, said it took him five years to acquire all the necessary certifications.
The mayor pointed out that the law is mandated by the state.
“It’s nothing I’m in love with,” he said. “They left us with no choice. In fact, we dragged it up to now.”
The law, passed in special session in 2005, is in response to threats by the insurance industry to get out of the Gulf Coast altogether after the devastating blows of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The fees to be charged in St. Martinville by Richard’s company, Building Codes Inspection Services LLC, are the same as in Breaux Bridge, Parks, Henderson and the unincorporated areas of St. Martin Parish. They fall into four categories: building permits, electrical inspections, plumbing inspections and air conditioning and heating inspections.
Concocting an example of a 1,500-square-foot home costing $100,000 to build, Richard said total fees would be $700 to $800.