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Building Codes Council needs retooling

JACKSON — What exactly is known about the Mississippi Building Codes Council?

You won’t find it listed in the telephone book or when conducting a quick search of the Internet. There is no office, telephone number or web site.

What is known is that in 2006, the Legislature passed House Bill 1406 that created an organization to enforce wind and flood mitigation requirements in Mississippi’s five coastal counties and to require that all municipalities in those counties adopt certain nationally recognized building and residential codes as prescribed in the 2003 international residential and building codes.

That “organization” is the Mississippi Building Codes Council (MBCC).

The MBCC is made up of 26 representatives from several sectors of the construction and building trade industries, as well as various state and municipal officials, and includes architects, homebuilders, general contractors, engineers and others. Each member is to serve a term of three years, or until a successor is appointed and then qualifies.

“After Hurricane Katrina, we found a huge variety of approaches to building codes,” said Marty Milstead, executive vice president of the Mississippi Home Builders Association and a member of the council. “That led to a legislative effort to create the council with a potential to enact a statewide building code.”

Milstead says the MBCC hasn’t held a meeting since 2008.

“The council is not funded and that’s one reason there is no web site,” he said. “There is also a general lack of interest when people realize that they’re in a volunteer role.”

John Sullivan, executive director for the Mississippi State Board of Contractors, believes a code council is essential to eliminating code violations in the building industry and protecting citizens, but says the organization is a bit unwieldy.

“It’s needed because the reality is that we have the potential for earthquakes in Northwest Mississippi, as well as the threat of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes statewide,” Sullivan said. “One of the biggest problems with the council, however, is that it is too large to be effective. It needs to be smaller to be able to function better.”

Former state senator and current Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney helped author the bill for the establishment of the MBCC.

“We accomplished what we wanted to and that was to adopt codes for the coastal counties post-Katrina,” said Chaney, who says he’s not been involved with the council for nearly two years. “I agree that there are too many members and it can be somewhat unmanageable.”

Chaney says adopting the international residential and building codes has had a long-term effect and that officials are complying with enforcement.

“We’re enforcing the building codes,” he said. “If they don’t enforce them, were not going to allow insurance (policies) to be written.”

Milstead admits that the MBCC needs some re-tooling.

“It hasn’t been very effective thus far,” he said. “I agree that it’s too big. But, I do believe that’s going to change next year when it has more meaning and substance to it.”

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