By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The Town of Picture Butte has updated their Quality Management Plan for safety inspections.
During their regular Jan. 27 meeting, Picture Butte town council reviewed a draft version of a new Quality Management Plan.
Back in October 2019, the Safety Codes Council had conducted an audit on the Town of Picture Butte’s permitting and inspection services for building, electrical, plumbing, gas and fire disciplines. At the end of November 2019, the town received their report, where they identified a few items for the town to address. The town has until Feb. 25 to notify the Safety Codes Council on how they will implement the required changes.
One of the required changes was that the town had to update their Quality Management Plan (QMP), which is required of accredited agencies to outline how they they will carry out inspections in adherence to the Alberta Building Code and associated legislation.
“The Town of Picture Butte is an accredited agency under the Safety Codes Council, which basically means we can either, if we had the personnel, do our own inspections to enforce the Alberta Building Code or we can hire a contracted agency to do that work for us,” said Keith Davis, CAO for the town. “Our Quality Management Plan was current, but the last time it was updated was in 2001. And so as part of the audit, they identified that we need to implement a new quality management plan.”
Currently, the town contracts out its building code, electrical, plumbing and gas inspections, with fire code inspections being done in-house with Frank West, Picture Butte fire chief and director of emergency services for the town.
Coun. Teresa Feist asked that since the old plan was almost 20 years old, if that was “usually the way it goes” when it comes to updating them. West said primarily, the plan should be revisited every time the code changes — or every five years.
“Not that there is any earth-shattering changes to the QMP when the code changes, but we should at least be reviewing it so there isn’t any earth-shattering changes that we need to update our QMP (for),” said West. “When we did this review, with Keith (Davis, CAO) kind of mentioned, there are no deviations, it’s just a current version.”
Coun. Joe Watson asked how much it cost for the town to be an accredited agency. Davis said it cost the town nothing to be accredited, although they do pay fees through the development process.
“The Safety Codes Act is a provincial legislation. The Safety Codes Council is the provincial body that’s enacted by that legislation,” said West.
“There’s two options in Alberta. If a municipality remains unaccredited, the Safety Codes Council assumes responsibility under the Safety Code Act. So they would issue all permits, inspections on behalf of the municipality. It’s generally small villages, unincorporated municipal districts, things like that. Municipalities like ourselves, most towns and cities, become accredited so that they can administer permits and inspections under the Safety Codes Act through the municipality, and that also gives us the ability to collect the permit fees for things like building permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits. All those permits that people come to town office to get, we have a fee we retain a certain percentage of.”
Coun. Henry de Kok said he has been asked why the town contracts only one person or company to perform building inspections, as sometimes a builder can have a run-in with an inspector, “and for the next 30 buildings you do they can make life pure misery for you”, and people have expressed concern that there is no recourse for them in those cases. He asked why they didn’t have multiple options for the town to use to perform these inspections.
Davis said they are required to have one contract or agreement with an accredited agency. West said he wasn’t aware of any municipalities who use a “free-for-all, pick-your-own inspector kind-of thing”.
“The analogy I could provide is similar to law enforcement; you don’t get to pick and choose which cop enforces the law, they’re appointed by one entity that’s appointed by the municipality,” said West.
“And that way (there’s) uniformity from our side, because that way we have one entity that should be inspecting buildings to the code and to our level of service and to our expectations. There should be no discrepancy form one contractor/builder/landowner to another, and they should be all treated fairly.”
If there are issues, West added that they should encourage people to file complaints “when they can, because they’re a contractor acting on a municipality’s behalf”.
Watson noted that there must be an appeal board if a builder disagreed with the inspector.
Davis said that would be done through the Safety Code Council, as they oversee accreditation for the building inspectors.
Feist asked for clarification for a line under 3.7) Site Inspections/Inspection Reports, which stated that inspections will “determine if the work, thing, or activity complies with the Act”, as she was unsure what they meant by the wording of ‘thing’ in that sentence.
West said that as you can apply for a permit that isn’t a building, such as a gas permit for a gas fireplace, that was the wording they used.
Council unanimously passed a motion to approve the Quality Management Plan as presented.