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With the rate of development and growth happening in Washington County, the County’s building department has its hands full keeping up with inspections.

The County is considering contracting with outside regional agency E.P.C.I. Code Administration Services to assist.

County Administrator Jeff Massey again discussed the need for building inspection services during a Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) workshop on Thursday, May 9. The current County building official is set to retire in June.

“We’re barely keeping up with the workload coming in,” Massey said.

The current County building department would remain and handle public matters.

Turning to the private sector means the County would have a company at their disposal who “does this for a living” and “specializes in this work and has many, many inspectors at their call,” Massey said.

Most of the building reviewing can be done digitally and not involve “hard paper,” Massey said.

“The advantages of that is you’re going to have greater turnaround times on your permits and stuff like that,” Massey said.

Hilton E. “Bo” Creel, president and co-founder of EPCI, said they can accept digital and paper schematics, whichever is convenient for customers.

“For a residential building permit, if you give us a complete package on Monday morning, Friday afternoon I can issue you your building permit,” Creel said. “That’s the way we do business. Commercial, depending on the size of the project, we run anywhere from two weeks to sometimes 50, 60 days if you’re talking about some type of high-rise or very large facility.”

E.P.C.I. currently operates the building department for 14 cities, including Marianna, Cottondale, Callaway, Panama City, Parker, Springfield, Mexico Beach, and Port St. Joe.

“We have building officials. We’ve got nine fire inspectors,” Creel said. “We’ve got all the trades: inspection, mechanical, plumbing.”

E.P.C.I. staff and resources can be sent to whatever area needs services.

“We can assist with floodplain management,” Creel said. “After Hurricane Michael, the 10 cities that received the major impacts were our cities. We were selling permits at the rate of 1,000 per week and we handled the workload. We had as many as 75 people on the street at one time.”

Commissioner Tray Hawkins said he supports contracting with E.P.C.I.

The matter is expected to be discussed further during a regular BOCC meeting on Thursday, May 17, scheduled to start at 9 a.m. The BOCC did not make an official decision during the workshop, since resolutions are generally not made during those. Workshops are intended to hash out matters before meetings.