Gearing up to enforce the historic Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code, passed in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, has been no easy task. Of the state’s 64 parishes, 57 didn’t even have a code office when the storm hit.
By last December, a month before the code went into effect, most parishes had not “lifted a finger”
to prepare for enforcement, says Randy Noel, chairman of the LSUCC Council and president of homebuilder Reve Inc., Laplace. Compounding that, in 2005, the state only had 42 certified building inspectors, he says.
The number is now up to 260 and most parishes are in the process of upgrading or creating building departments, reports Noel. They are aided by $8 million from the state, up front, another $3.5 million that is reimbursable and $14 million supplemented by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Program.
The council’s goal is to create a statewide e-permitting system. On April 25, it hosted a workshop attended by 87 elected and building officials to help the parishes nail down their information technology needs and chart a course for a statewide system.
“The consensus was that a statewide system should be built over time, linking existing e-permitting systems with new ones,” says Robert C. Wible, a regulatory reform consultant based in Reston, Va., who led the workshop.
In addition, there was agreement that the council should de-velop an LSUCC Website. Jurisdictions also want council help in finding funds for e-permitting and want the state to set up a procurement process for IT systems that includes a list of prequalified IT vendors. “We need to get a fast, simple” electronic-permit and inspection-tracking system “in the hands of the folks that don’t have anything,” says Noel.
Some jurisdictions are in a holding pattern, waiting to see whether the state legislature, in session since April 30, passes legislation to repeal the state construction code, which is being challenged.
“We suspect it won’t happen,” says Noel, which is why the council is “proceeding full steam ahead.” He hopes to have a full statewide system in place and operational by the end of 2008.