EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
What does a municipal building department do when no one is building? There are a variety of activities.
A) Stay sharp by practicing latest techniques with Legos building blocks.
B) Build make-believe towns on The Sims software program.
C) Take on responsibilities to enforce existing codes and embrace procedures that could improve the viability and appearance of the local community.
After all, the Nassau County building department was getting so large several years ago that a new $1.5 million headquarters was on the drawing board. The department reportedly has a staff of about 40 people.
Local building officials could not have been busier in recent years; since then, things could not be slower. The county’s Development Review Committee even cancelled its regularly scheduled meeting last week because of a lack of activity.
And during these trying times for municipalities, when every expense and employee and expenditure must be scrutinized, you would expect the building department to be embarking on option ‘C’ from above.
Several work-related projects could be embraced. For one, the county’s laws against double-stacked billboards are apparently not being enforced. This would be a logical responsibility of the building department, which administers and enforces codes.
In Section 20 ½-132 of the municipal codes, it states: “An off-site commercial billboard may be single-faced or double-faced, providing both sides are of the same size and shape, are parallel to each other and are a mirror image of shape. No double stacking of billboards is allowed.”
Considering there are at least 20 double-stacked billboards along the Blanding Boulevard equivalent known to us as State Highway A1A in Yulee, you might find this confusing. You wonder who is watching the hen house — hopefully not the fox.
It would at least make sense for building officials to explore this apparent conundrum. Double-stacked billboards are far from appeasing to the eye, and the county law was established to prevent them. But there they are in bold colors and lights.
Secondly, building officials could spend some of their idle time exploring a recent development regarding construction standards in the county — and how they could be elevated to meet FEMA requirements. In this way, county residents could qualify for reductions in flood insurance costs of as much as 40 percent. The costs for flood insurance in coming years will do nothing but increase — this is as certain as a double-stacked billboard catching a motorist’s eye. The federal government is reducing its subsidies toward flood insurance costs.
It would be logical for building officials to attain the accreditation required by FEMA, and set out on an activity that will help not the county, but the taxpayer. What a concept this could be.
Let’s hope that county commissioners will catch wind of these few notions and move on them. One impacts the county’s appearance, the other taxpayers’ pocketbooks.
Let’s embrace these ideas — and then build on them.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor with a major Wall Street firm who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].