On May 29, WSTBO brought Codes Division Director Ron Piester to Chautauqua County to speak with supervisors and mayors.  From WSTBO attending were John Monaco, Charles Smith, Don Kaynor, and Randy Woodbury.  The report is below:

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A few of those attending the May 29 meeting of supervisors and mayors are, from left, Fredonia Mayor Michael Sullivan, Sheridan Supervisor John Walker, New York State Codes Division Director Ron Piester, and John Monaco, Fredonia’s chief code enforcement officer and president of Western Southern Tier Building Officials.

Codes Director Piester addresses County Supervisors and Mayors

Ron Piester is a registered architect who comes from a family of builders.  He can draw a new house with T-square and he can build it with a framing square.  Mr. Piester brings a wealth of real-world perspective as New YorkState’s Director of the Department of State Codes Division.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of ChautauquaCounty’s town supervisors and village and city mayors, Mr. Piester framed the responsibility and reasons for effective code enforcement in each jurisdiction.

With National Building Safety Week just a few weeks past, he reminded the government leaders that building codes are safety codes, that while police and fire departments are “first responders” to disaster, code enforcement officials have been nationally recognized as “first preventers” to thwart disasters.

“When a building is built correctly, nothing happens – just as it should be,” Mr. Piester said.  He stressed that well-constructed buildings are good foundations for economic development, because current codes require energy-saving construction, promote construction with recycled materials, and result in buildings that are long-lasting.

Hitting on an issue locally highlighted, Mr. Piester asked, “Do Amish buildings need to meet building code standards?”  His answer was, “Yes, there are no exceptions based on religious beliefs, but how do we deal with this?”

Mr. Piester said that for issues like this, the codes division regional engineers look at two approaches.  The first is to educate all builders, Amish included, to understand the safety specifics of building codes and to help them adjust their buildings to meet the codes.  The second option is to apply for variance from specifics of the building code on a case-by-case basis.

ChautauquaCounty’s regional engineer is in Buffalo.  He can be contacted through the Albany main office of the codes division, and his contact information is on the website for the Western Southern Tier Building Officials (wstbo.com), the association of code officials in and near ChautauquaCounty that arranged for Mr. Piester’s visit here.

Mr. Piester explained to the supervisors and mayors that the state-wide uniform code began in 1984 following some disasters in the country.  New York’s building safety codes are now based on the model codes of the International Code Council, and each municipality is required by state law to locally enforce the uniform code.

Mr. Piester acknowledged that proper code enforcement can be costly, but is “money well spent” for each community.  Safety, good insurance ratings, and a strong base for economic development are areas where code enforcement serves the community, and the state as a whole, according to Piester.

Saying the state codes division’s mission was to help local enforcement officials stay educated on increasingly complex construction methods and new materials, and to help officials perform their duties effectively and efficiently, Mr. Piester offered personal help.  He left his cell phone number with all supervisors and mayors, suggesting that they contact him immediately if they need assistance or advice from codes division experts.

Sheridan Supervisor John Walker thanked Mr. Piester for the presentation and said he hoped all supervisors and mayors were working well with their code enforcement officers.  “I’m sure happy with mine,” Mr. Walker said.

WSTBO President John Monaco said he was very pleased that the codes division director traveled from Albany to visit ChautauquaCounty where several sensitive code enforcement issues have made recent headlines.  Mr. Monacoencouraged all municipalities to have their code officials join and participate in WSTBO so the productive dialog could continue.

WSTBO is the local affiliate of the International Code Council and the New York State Building Officials Conference.  It conducts monthly meetings, often with certified training.  Additional information and applications are online at wstbo.com.

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