Houston we have a problem Part 2: Councilman Compretta refuses to acknowledge massive problems in the Bay St Louis Building Department

Whether it is commercial buildings constructed over property lines, average citizens getting the run around or building department employees being used to harass the Mayor’s Critics the problems with having unqualified mayoral cronies instead of professionals in Building and Code enforcement are pretty well documented. Last month with the Council considering privatizing the building Department, the Mayor mustered the support of some favored contractors to speak in favor of the status quo as well as give his council ally Bobby Compretta some cover to make a fool of himself:

Otis Bounds said he agreed with Carrigee, but said the city needs to “upgrade our building department and put some knowledgeable people in there.” Bounds referenced Carrigee’s tenure in the building department and said even though he didn’t always agree with Carrigee’s answers, Bounds said he knew Carrigee was “always right.”

“If I get an answer now, you better go look it up because it’s probably wrong,” he said. “Either upgrade the building department or keep the bunch you got off the beach.”

Ron Thorp said he was at the meeting where the city of Waveland voted to privatize its building department.

Thorp said the aldermen were pleased with the privatization of the building department because they said it eliminated the phone calls, took the pressure off of them and took the politics out of the building department.

“It saved the city a lot of money,” Thorp said. “If you heard all the people that came up here, the one thing they said is,’if you’re going to privatize it, have someone that is good.’ So we can save money, have it privatized and have a good person in there.”

Councilman Bobby Compretta said, from what he’s heard, he doesn’t think the council needs to fix anything that’s not broken.

That workshop had a little something for everyone including Councilman Seal again showing his zeal to raise everyone’s taxes but it was Compretta’s attempt to spin the dysfunction in the building department that was most pathetic IMHO as he is a realtor and should know better than most.

Building codes protect the public and level the playing field for contractors. The real estate marketplace differentiates between quality and substandard construction in pricing. For instance there is an established subdivision off Old Spanish Trail full of nicely done ranch style houses built on spacious lots that was largely constructed by two general contractors, whose names I will not mention but one of whom spoke out in favor of the status quo at that Council workshop.

One of the Generals took pride in the quality of their workmanship while one did not.  I mention this because I’ve seen MLS listings on that subdivision where the price per square foot was as much as $30 different depending on the original contractor for the house, which look identical on the outside. It is an open secret in Bay St Louis realty circles.  Building codes coupled with code enforcement prevent corner cutting and insure a basic level of quality of construction.

I mention this because local architect Kevin Fitzpatrick stopped in and commented on last week’s post on Triple Tails and now Dan Bs being built over their property lines and it raises some disturbing implications:

Your statement at the beginning of this post, that I appeared before City Council requesting permission for Tripletails to cantilever decks over state property, is untrue. At that meeting, the Owner was only asking permission to build over City-owned property on the north side of the building. Decks were drawn projecting over state property to the east in case the Owner was successful in negotiating that right.

This project has been very problematic for my reputation. The Owner cut me out of the loop after receiving a provisional foundation-only permit based on my INCOMPLETE construction documents. The building dept allowed the Owner to “complete” the building without any further documentation or engineering under my supervision. If any electrical, mechanical, structural, or architectural drawings were provided, they certainly weren’t produced by me. As a consequence, I have never set foot on the property and never will so please don’t attribute to me whatever code or ADA or engineering violations that may have been allowed and don’t credit me with the way it looks either.

Leave out the anomaly in the council minutes as it now appears Triple Tails is getting a free ride using both State land and City land and let’s focus on the continuing rumors that the balconies at Triple Tails are unsafe. To be clear Mr. Fitzpatrick qualified his statement on the lack of an engineering stamp on the design. However, when these rumors were addressed in the Seacoast Echo, Bay St Louis’ perpetually interim Chief Building Charles Oliver was silent on whether or not an engineer was used as well:

Oliver said both the building department and the mayor’s office had received several phone calls from citizens who are concerned the building’s second- and third-floor decks won’t hold up to a large crowd.

Oliver said that’s because people are only seeing the visible exterior supports for the decks. However, he said, they’re built with cantilevered construction that surpasses what the building code actually requires.

With cantilever construction, the support beams of an exterior structure must extend into the interior of the building.

In other words, Oliver said, “Whatever you have sticking out, you have to have sticking in. The code says you have to have 50 percent of the length of the exterior sticking in. Here, he’s got 70 percent sticking in. If that thing should ever fall, it would have to break off with the whole side of the building, and the chances of that are very low.

By law buildings three stories or greater must use a “design professional” and yet Bay St Louis’ Building Official is silent on that subject while the Architect that was employed by Triple Tails was dismissed before his design was completed. Those rumors on Triple Tails balconies continue to this day.

Given the Murphy family recently constructed Dan B’s over the state owned green space property line raises the question whether or not there was ever an approved site plan submitted or if code compliance is proceeding piece meal without one, Triple Tails style.

City Attorney Trent Favre mentioned two different sets of plans being submitted and even the Building Department’s defenders admit there is evidently no one currently employed by the City that can adequately read and interpret commercial plans, expertise that was eliminated by the Mayor when he elevated his friend Oliver to the Chief Building Official’s position. The evidence of massive problems stemming from ineptitude and ignorance is undeniable and Councilman Compretta thinks that nothing is broken in A Place Apart. It is a good example why he needs to be replaced by a someone that is more conscientious. Luckily next year voters in Ward 4 will get the opportunity to do exactly that.

In part three Slabbed hopes to have some commentary from the Secretary of State’s office – either that or I will reveal the questions they are seemingly unable to answer. Stay tuned.

18 thoughts on “Houston we have a problem Part 2: Councilman Compretta refuses to acknowledge massive problems in the Bay St Louis Building Department”

  1. The building department is a joke. The crooked contractors that support it gets special treatment. Art. built Trapanis without a permit or inspections. The Garage brothers get shotty work overlooked. And cheaper permit fees I’m told. Building in the Bay is a cluster f..k unless you bring a homemade pie to the building department with a few Benjamin’s underneath.

  2. Having a professional in the post would obviously be the preferred situation. However, I’d caution that BSL doesn’t follow Waveland’s model exactly.

    “Follow the code” cuts both ways if you really want the playing field level for all involved. Contractors need to be held to the minimum standard called for in the written code. But the code official should not unilaterally be applying their own “code” that exceeds that which is in the official code books. And that’s exactly what takes place in Waveland. The building department follows the “Carrigee Building Code” which may or may not match the official code books.

    Get any contractor in private and ask. There are many that won’t build in Waveland, not because they want to cut corners, but because they know that the enforcement may be unreasonable. Ask any homeowner in the midst of building. (Don’t ask one that is finished building; they are usually so beaten and worn down that they are just happy to move on with life and glad it is now someone else’s problem.) Applying code for commercial buildings on residential construction? In happens. Require additional crossbracing even though neither the engineered drawings nor the code call for it? It happens. Denying/changing requirements by claiming anything related to engineering principles? It happens. (This last one, by the way, opens up an interesting can of worms….practicing engineering without a license.) Of course, those contractors that pay for private classes from officials in Waveland’s building department seem to have less complaints and issues. Coincidence?

    Mind you, I am not claiming that the “above and beyond” suggestions made by the Waveland officials are not good ideas, but the power of the law should not be used to enforce good suggestions. It should only be allowed to enforce the code as written. If the ideas are good enough to be enforced, those ideas need to be incorporated into the written code/law.

    Privatization can be good. But BSL needs to ensure that whomever they choose is knowledgable about the WRITTEN CODE and understands their power is limited to the WRITTEN CODE. Anything else and you will find BSL growth restricted to the waterfront just like Waveland’s is.

    1. The building code… and Bill Carriage…. Some people think that Bill is a profession code expert but from my experience he does not act as a professional. Bill has created his business of code enforcement, by the lack of knowledge that 99% of the people in this community including the building department of both Waveland and Bay Saint Louis. Thus Bill is the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. In order for communities to qualify for the federal flood insurance program it’s required that International Building Codes be used… which, if you ever read the building codes can be quite hard to understand. That’s why a proper building department with qualified staff that can Read, understand and interpret these complex documents is vital to a growing community. These codes not only include the Building codes but, Plumbing, Electrical and Fire Safety codes all of which are confusing to read and interpret. Relying on one person to be the Massa’ of building codes is just bad business. Just about every building project has been delayed because of the lack of knowledge of the codes and regulations that are presently in place.

  3. I am very familiar with the inspection side of business as I consider myself an expert with the credentials to prove it. These types of findings and potential findings are not surprising at all when dealing with local governments. I remember when I was adding on to my house there were three or four checkpoints which required inspections from the county. My wife or myself were home and knew of the inspection check points. We asked each time when the building inspector was going to show up and our contractor mysteriously had a signed piece of paper stating the inspection was complete. The building inspectors must have been ghosts. I’ve, heard numerous stories around town that a lot of them just sign paperwork and are in bed with certain contractors. If anyone needs any investigative inspection services, I am available.

  4. I have done many renovations and new construction in the BSL area. All I can say is I wish Bill Carrigee was still around. He knew the code and how to enforce it. Every project I have done since him has been a disaster. You are told one thing, then you discover it is not correct and have to change your orders to make it comply. This is not a good thing. Josh in the Code Office was good and knew his Code, but as you know, lets get rid of the personnel that knows what is going on, plus probably his ties to Eddie F.
    Something drastic needs to be done and soon before we have more buildings out there not in compliance.
    Where are the inspectors? I thought someone should be overseeing the foundation, structures, etc… How could they miss the balconies on Triple Tail and Dan B’s during construction.
    The City needs a “qualified” Code Enforcer that follows the rules during construction. Not someone who can not pass the test for, How many years now, Just because he is a friend of the mayor…..
    The Code Department needs a total evaluation and new and qualified personnel.

  5. Well, one thing that apparently been left by the wayside in Bay Saint Louis, is any kind of requirement that restaurants comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One more thing that having a professional building inspection department could fix. The DOJ might as well open a branch office here if they ever decide to start mandating compliance with federal law here in the Bay.

  6. Observer, last night at the Council meeting when local newspaper editor, Randy Ponder, confronted the Counci and Mayor about allowing the illegal use of golf carts on city streets, which Ponder correctly stated could jeopardize every taxpayer if someone is hurt or killed, the Mayor’s response was, “It’s popular!”
    So, there you have it. It is popular to violate the law in the Place Apart. I guess it is safe to say, according to
    Hizzonna, ” if it feels good, do it😎”

    1. You just wonder how long it will be before some attorney recruits some disabled person in a wheelchair to try and access some of the places with upper level floors and no handicapped access. The BSL code department may be handing out short term favors like candy, but they aren’t doing anybody any long term favors. Everything eventually
      gets into the light.

      1. Sometime within the past 18 months or so local architect Michael Reeves warned the Mayor and City Council that exact thing would happen but it fell on deaf ears.

    2. Golf cart driving on the road can be considered LSV low speed vehicles and in many community’s are legal… Not sure on all of the legalities, LSV are the wave of the future and should be encouraged.

      1. The laws on golf carts (and ATVs) using public roads are clear as mud in Mississippi. Just flip through Mississippi AG opinions with the search term “golf carts” and see what you get. On the other hand, anyone who wants to tool around downtown on their riding lawn mower (farm vehicle) is on solid ground.

        1. You know, a lawn mower parade may be the kimd of event that’s tailor made for the first two blocks of Main street amd the surrounding streets. Everyone could hop on their John Deere’s and drive on down.

  7. Wake up BSL, Les will never have an understand anything. He has a history of bad governing and now he has taught his Daughter how to lie and be a part of his legacy. Probably the worst Mayor BSL has ever had. How sad…
    He has bankrupt a City that has so much potential for income producing and growth. The development is still happening, but at what cost? Buildings are being constructed that are not in compliance, money is spent in the budget or moved around that is not in compliance?
    Please Drain the Swamp in the next election, and don’t let it stop at the Mayor, look at the Council also. See who has worked toward helping the city. We don’t even have representation in Ward 2. When will that be addressed? I’d like to get elected to a position, collect a check each month with Health Benefits and never attend a meeting. What a Life !!

    1. The pump on the swamp is back up and going. There was a big slime clog in the drainage line. When they canned Rafferty it unclogged.

  8. A recent news item concerning an alleged incident involving a BSL elected official included the following:

    Falgout said Tuesday that there are other circumstances surrounding the incident. He said he had tried to work with Marquar on behalf of property owners who are unhappy with work construction work Marquar’s company did for them.
    “I’m standing up for my constituents and the people of Bay St. Louis,” Falgout said. “Mr. Marquar’s attorney has talked to the city attorney. All we are asking him to do is to make these people whole on some of this workmanship that is not up to par … and Mr. Marquar has chosen to ignore it.

    A few questions concerning the above news report:

    1. Was the construction work apparently referenced by Councilman Falgot done within the jurisdiction of BSL?

    2. Was this construction work referenced by Councilman Falgout permitted and/or inspected by the BSL building department?
    If not, was this the type of work which is typically done outside the building permit and inspection process in BSL?

    3. If the work referenced by Councilman Falgout was issued a building permit(s) by BSL, were any inspections done, and were any stop work orders or other corrective notices issued by BSL? Was the permit(s) closed out with a final inspection by BSL?

    1. I am not really sure that permits, inspections, etc matter rfp. If work was done at a sub-standard level in BSL, then Mr. Falgout has every right to ensure the citizens of BSL interests are protected; which definitely includes their property. I am sure the subject contractor is required to carry license, bond, etc. to allow him to do work within the city; so, there is an implied expectation of his craftsmanship. Obviously, his work is not satisfactory with some of his customers or there would not be an issue. As far as I know, Lonnie Falgout is not in the construction business, so, there doesn’t appear to be a conflict of interest; simply a request that people get what they pay for. Isn’t everyone entitled to that?

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