Township discusses options for building inspections

Grand Haven Township Human Resources Director Andrea Dumbrell speaks with board members Monday night about hiring a new building inspector to fill the open position within the township.

Seats were filled Monday evening at the Grand Haven Township Hall as the audience waited to hear an update and offer their opinions on replacing a township building official.

The township’s human resources director, Andrea Dumbrell, spoke with the Township Board about the process used in narrowing down candidates to be interviewed to fill the position open after the recent death of building official Barton Lucas. Some board members and attendees expressed wanting to see change and how that could be achieved by working with a third-party inspector.

“I’ve been a builder here for over 25 years (and) this is the most difficult township to work with,” Joe Nadeau said to board members. “It has gotten better, but I think there is room for improvement. The No. 1 concern I have is my customers, and that is obviously your concern, as well. I intend to give them a quality product. The fact that there is a perception out there that this is a difficult township to deal with is not a myth, it is a reality.”

Township Supervisor Mark Reenders said that, two years ago, he brought up the possibility of hiring out for building inspections. On Monday, he said he would like to look at the option of contracting with third-party inspectors, while still keeping building official Scott Corbat on staff.

“I think, with a third-party inspection, we would start looking at what we are doing differently,” Reenders said. “As a builder in this community, I have worked all over the state of Michigan, in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio, and I have to say, when I have built in my home township, it was a whole lot different than any of the others.

“I think we ask for more inspections,” he continued. “I think our interpretation of the codes is a lot different. You have to go through a learning process in Grand Haven Township in how they inspect versus the code everyone else looks at.”

Treasurer William Kieft disagreed with using a third-party inspector.

“The code is the code,” he said. “I think it has to be enforced the way it is written. To me, if you are privatizing this, then we should be out of it completely. Our staff should not be involved. I’m against it.”

Kieft said that without the oversight of the board, the township would lose control of ensuring buildings are inspected to the codes, which could mean a lower-quality product for township residents.

“I find that our code book is the same throughout the whole United States, but there is language in there that building inspectors can use their discretion,” builder Todd Hamstra said. “The discretion used here is different than anywhere else. In the past, I will say, anytime I have made a phone call for an inspection, I have gotten a pit in my stomach. That describes what it was like to work here in Grand Haven Township. I shouldn’t have to feel that way.”

Hamstra, like many others who were at the meeting, would like to see a third-party inspector used going forward.

Reenders made a motion to look into contracting out for inspections under Corbat’s supervision. Township Clerk Laurie Larson and trustees Howard Behm and David Gignac agreed.

Kieft and trustees Calvin Meeusen and Ron Reddick voted against the motion, preferring to move forward with interviewing candidates for the open township building inspector position.

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