Ham Lake increases building official’s hours

Ham Lake’s building official will get to work eight more hours each week.

The Ham Lake City Council April 16 unanimously granted a request from City Administrator Doris Nivala to increase the number of hours per week for Building Official Jim Adams from 28 to 36 hours.

Councilmember Gary Kirkeide said this was a simple decision to make once he saw the workload. It looks like Adams will be busy enough to be able to work 36-hour weeks at least through the remainder of the year, while the building department’s budget is in the black and the permit fees are covering staff costs, he said.

“It’s a good thing,” Mayor Mike Van Kirk said. “It means the building department is getting busier.”

According to Finance Director Sharon Kutzke, the building department from mid-Februrary to mid-April in 2011 completed 90 inspections, issued 59 building permits for $11,425 in revenue to the city and issued one new home building permit that brought $4,156 to the city.

During that same time frame this year, the building department completed 207 inspections, issued 119 permits for $47,895 in revenue to the city and issued 10 home building permits for $31,065 in revenue.

According to Kutzke, this increased activity is not limited to the late winter. There were 101 total permits issued in all of 2011. The city has already passed that with 176 permits issued to date. There were four new homes permits in Ham Lake in 2011. So far, 13 home building permits have been issued.

Adams said Ham Lake has a lot of nice lots going at reasonable prices, so he figures some would rather buy a vacant lot and build a new home rather than purchasing a foreclosure, although foreclosures have been purchased in Ham Lake.

If the septic system is a legally failing system, which could include not meeting current state setback requirements, the banks will usually replace the system, Adams said. This means an inspection is needed. Adams also tracks when septic systems are pumped.

A lot more people are remodeling their homes. He has seen a number of deck remodeling permits, Adams said.

Adams has received a countless phone calls from individuals who may not necessarily be ready to do a project, but he will answer their questions and he welcomes them.

“Overall, it’s been good,” Adams said.

According to the city’s website, there are two other city staff members who assist Adams with the building department’s day-to-day activities. Dawnette Shimek is the zoning official and building department clerk. Sue Phillips is an administrative assistant.

Ham Lake used to have two other inspectors, but one was laid off in November 2008 and the second in February 2009 because of plummeting revenues.

When asked if council discussed hiring any additional help in the building official department, Councilmember Tom Johnson said it did not because staff did not ask. He said if building picks up to levels the city used to have, then there may be additional adjustments at that time.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]