Everyday Heroes: Three Government Leaders Who Keep People Safe by Keeping Buildings to Code
We often don’t consider it, but government teams leading the building inspection process work on the front lines of community safety. As new developments rise and old buildings need repairs, they help enforce codes, conduct inspections, and issue permits to avoid future accidents.
Unlike the work of public safety agencies such as police or fire departments, permitting and inspection work isn’t visible to most people—but it saves lives.
Every year, thousands of people are hurt or killed due to the failure of unsound structures. Deck collapses alone account for about 6,000 injuries annually. Building collapses are not as common, but when they do happen they’re often deadly. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), 144 people died due to residential building collapses from 1989 to 2019, all in accidents that could have been prevented by proper code enforcement.
Let’s say that again: All in accidents that could have been prevented by proper code enforcement.
Of course, contractors don’t want their buildings to collapse. But people make mistakes, especially when there are many stakeholders involved.
In the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse, for example, which killed 114 people in 1981, those leading the construction later said that each person believed someone else had done the calculations to ensure a major change to the plans was structurally sound, assuming that the building work would not have proceeded otherwise.
This is why the work of government is so crucial in building. It’s the job of government leaders to hold the line when it comes to making sure these kinds of accidents don’t happen. Through diligent enforcement of permitting and inspection processes, these leaders spend their days ensuring that buildings are up to code, helping keep their communities safe.
In honor of ICC’s Building Safety Month, an annual campaign aimed at raising awareness about building safety, we wanted to highlight those doing this important work.
Keep reading to learn about three local government leaders and their teams, all of whom are working hard to maintain and improve the permitting process where they live to help keep people safe.
1. Marty Mosely, Director of Code Enforcement and Zoning in Ithaca, NY
Marty Mosely’s department oversees inspections and permitting in the Town of Ithaca, New York; ensuring that buildings are made to code and permitting processes are followed for all projects.
When there are emergencies in other parts of the state, his team volunteers to help check the structural integrity of buildings in towns that were hit with severe weather.
Over the last few years, the Town has been expanding quickly, with new building projects being proposed to keep up with the growth all the time. This acceleration in building projects has come with a corresponding acceleration in permit applications and a dire need for more inspections.
The Town previously relied on a legacy software system that used paper applications and manual data entry to manage inspections, permits, and records, and it was struggling to keep up with the high volume of requests. To meet the demand and ensure that nothing slipped through the cracks, Mosely began searching for a new, efficient system for managing permits and building inspections.
He conducted exhaustive research, interviewing more than 10 software vendors before deciding to adopt OpenGov Permitting & Licensing to help his department ensure it was keeping people safe through diligent inspections and code enforcement.
“One of the benefits of transitioning to any new system….is that we, as a municipality… have to look at our processes. And the processes we go to may not be exactly the same as what we are used to, but they could be better if we give it a chance.”
Marty Mosely, Director of Code Enforcement and Zoning in Ithaca, NY
2. Angela Pashon, Assistant City Manager, City of Pasco, WA
The City of Pasco, Washington has grown by 28% over the last 20 years. It now boasts 80,000 residents and 50,000 more are expected to join the City’s population over the next two decades.
Angela Pashon, the Assistant City Manager of Pasco, has been working hard with her team to support this growth and all the new building it requires. Working with the City Council, Pashon has helped update zoning, secure state grants, and launch a new permitting process to simplify applications for both residents and developers.
Of all the work Pashon has done to support the City’s growth, one of her biggest initiatives has been to educate other government officials on the importance of government in the building process.
This work has largely happened in the Council, which is almost entirely new this year. By collaborating with these new members and other department stakeholders, she has helped explain the crucial role government plays in development. That role includes making sure that building in the City is up to code to ensure community safety, while also enabling developers to move quickly and efficiently.
A key part of Pashon’s new permitting process was the adoption of OpenGov Permitting & Licensing, giving teams the control to be agile and make changes immediately in the case of new zoning ordinance.
“We needed a way to be more nimble and communicate with our developer community what the new requirements were throughout the permitting process and make it simpler for them to understand and partner with our team to comply.”
Angela Pashon, Assistant City Manager, City of Pasco, WA
3. David Camp, Director of Permitting and Inspections in Chatham County, NC
All building permits and inspections, including fire inspections, go through David Camp’s department in Chatham County, North Carolina.
In the last 10 years, the County has grown by over 20%. With this growth has come more development, which means more permits and inspections. Every year, his team completes about 40,000 inspections—between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022 Camp hired additional inspectors from neighboring jurisdictions just to meet the demand required by the County’s rapid growth.
Collaboration has been key to the success of the work Camp and his team does, both within their department and with other departments like the County’s Public Health Department, which helps ensure safety throughout the County’s work.
In 2020, the County was hit with a ransomware attack that shut down its online permitting system, depriving Camp’s department of their usual access to their software, emails, and even their phones. Camp and his team sprang into action, replicating their permitting and inspections processes on personal computers through the use of new Gmail accounts, Google Docs, and Excel spreadsheets.
This temporary solution got the department through the next six months, allowing them to continue conducting inspections and issuing permits to ensure proper procedures were followed with building in the County. After that period, the County moved to OpenGov Permitting and Licensing to level up its permitting processes.
“It’s like having a filing cabinet, but the filing cabinet is electronic . . . It’s all about sharing information.”
David Camp, Director of Permitting and Inspections in Chatham County, NC
Of course, these are just a handful of the millions of local government leaders working every day to enforce building codes. Thank you to everyone who spends their days helping to keep our communities safe.
Visit the ICC website to learn more about Building Safety Month.
Last Updated on May 24, 2023 by Jeff Neukom