Officials hope to crack down on building codes

A new state law will require counties and cities to adopt a stronger set of standards for the construction of residential and commercial buildings.

This bill is being adapted after the numerous natural disasters that have hit Mississippi in the past decade.

The premise was to standardize minimum requirements in construction as well as plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. The stricter requirements were aimed at making homes more resistant to natural disasters. With better structures, insurance premiums are expected to drop.

“The bill says that (the state) is trying to crack down on building code law because we have so many losses and much money to pay out on losses,” said Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis.

The governing bodies of counties and cities can pass a resolution opting out of the new provisions within 12o days of them going into effect. While no action is expected until the law takes effect, some local supervisors did not sound happy with legislation. Lamar County District 5 Supervisor Dale Lucus said it would be costly to create a department of building inspection and code enforcement.

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America  supports the legislation. They said it would protect people’s property by making sure residential and commercial buildings would be able to withstand greater wind speeds and flying debris.

“The people of Mississippi deserve to be protected, and this legislation requires builders to fortify new buildings with materials that can stand up to Mother Nature,” said Donavan Brown, Property Casualty Insurers’ counsel for state government relations.

Currently, Lamar County has no standardized building code, though many builders operate under standardized guidelines.

Hudson said he understood what prompted the law, but objected to the idea of government telling property owners what they have to do.

“I understand after Katrina the terrible situation we had down there, and if we had had stronger buildings, maybe we wouldn’t have suffered so much loss. So, I think maybe building codes in the three southern counties might be necessary, but I don’t think the code you would put in in maybe Harrison County would be necessary in central or north Mississippi.”

Lucus said lawmakers ought to revisit the provision and shift the cost off local governments. But until that happens, Forrest County District 4 Supervisor Rod Woullard said the state has done little more than place an economic burden on the shoulders of county taxpayers.