From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 50 - March 6, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Town Engineer Urges Homeowner Awareness, Education

by Tiffany Turner

Living in a county where building inspections are not required nor county-provided, it has become the duty of residents to appropriate professional services to ensure that safety is preserved. “A guy could go out in the middle of Sublette County and build 200 apartments and nobody’s going to inspect it,” Pinedale’s Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie said. “Since there is no building inspection... people really need to take the responsibility upon themselves and hire a design professional.”

Ninnie advises that when building a home, the individual should contract with a professional engineer or architect “do periodic inspections, to ensure compliance to proper code construction, structurally, mechanically and electrically.” “It’s really the best money you can spend,” Ninnie said. “There’s a real problem out there... I think this is the bestway to solve this problem currently.”

“I have been out on inspections in the county by request and have seen very poor construction, where someone could be injured or killed,” he added.

Ninnie said he has seen many structural problems caused by a lack of proper inspections and contractors who did not do the work properly.

“It was bad and these people had really spent a lot of money to get to (that) point,” he said. “It’s really ‘buyer beware’... There’s a lot of people out there with larceny in their hearts.”

Ninnie refers to these contractors that are paid up front and do not complete the job as “gypsy contractors” and advises that people pay contractors at specific milestones, with inspections at each in order to avoid these problems down the road. He also advises to make sure a good written contract prepared by an attorney, outlining the expectations and responsibilities of owner and contractor is produced.

Not all of these problems stem from contractors purposely undertaking shoddy craftsmanship for financial gain. Many contractors are taking on more responsibility than they are actually trained for.

“Most developers hire contractors to not only build but coordinate the submission of construction drawings. ... They are contractors, not designers,” Ninnie said. “These developers are sending contractors out to make sure the design drawings they submit are properly assembled and convey the needed information to make the project safe.

“Unfortunately, they have no knowledge or training in this area. The proper assembly and conveyance of design information must be left to a design professional, architect or professional engineer.”

Due to the boom and increased need for housing, and for that housing to be built quickly, many individuals are becoming contractors without proper training and knowledge and the shortage is allowing them to secure jobs. Ninnie urges consumers to check references.

“I see contractors who are currently working who need to be instructed in code construction,” Ninnie said. “Most have no idea regarding fire separations, proper venting and or installation of mechanical equipment to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and proper combustion air supply.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning is increasingly becoming a problem in the area, with three recent cases reported in Pinedale alone, one resulting in the death of several family pets. “Carbon monoxide is really dangerous because it is a hidden killer,” Ninnie said. “You go to bed thinking you’re fine, you fall asleep and you don’t wake up... It’s very dangerous.”

Ninnie urges residents to purchase carbon monoxide detectors and ensure that they have battery backup, and he recommends scheduling to change batteries in smoke detectors at the change of Daylight Savings Time, twice a year.

“When it’s done, you can put your head on your pillow at night and sleep well,” he said. “The educated armed with knowledge is the best way to solve the current problems of poor construction and lack of building inspection.”

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