City Council Gets Up to Speed on Borough’s Building Code Change

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak City Council is in the process of gathering facts about a building code change the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly recently passed without the council’s knowledge. The assembly made the switch from the 2012 building code to the 1997 uniform building code in an attempt to relax engineering requirements for home owner / builders in the borough. However, the city and borough hold a memorandum of agreement to share their building inspection program, and the change in building code breaks the spirit of the agreement – if not the MOA directly.

At the council’s work session last night, Assemblyman John Whiddon pointed out some language in the memorandum of agreement that reads, “The Borough and the City… shall strive to maintain identical regulations…”

“I mean, it’s clear to me that this is saying that we don’t have to, but we should attempt to, strive to, and so from that perspective alone, it seems to me that the MOA isn’t necessarily invalidated, because it doesn’t say they have to be the same, which is to me problematic, so when we get to rewriting this, that certainly needs to be clarified.”

City Manager Aimée Kniaziowski said if the city and borough agree to continue the memorandum of agreement, they need to re-negotiate. Her reasons pointed to issues with the MOA beyond the assembly’s recent code change.

“There’s one term in there that says that the building official will write the ordinances for the borough. We don’t write our own ordinances. We always have the attorneys do it, because that’s what they’re supposed to do. So, that had just come up recently along with the fact that the MOA requires us to supply a half-time administrative assistant, and that position hasn’t been filled certainly since I’ve been with the city and I believe before then.”

Meanwhile, city building official Doug Mathers expressed concern about how the 1997 building code and its various safety requirements would impact the city and borough ISO ratings. The higher the number, the worse the ISO rating, which could affect home insurance rates.

“I think that if we’re going to stay basically the way we are with our memorandum of agreement, if we’re going to continue that, we need to make sure that the city is rated separately from outside the city limits as far our ISO rating is concerned so that the city can maintain our four and the borough will probably move up to a 10 for residential construction.”

Kniaziowski said city staff has to gather all the facts before taking action. She said it needs to investigate the ISO rating question, the city’s liability, fire safety code, and enforcement, along with how to improve the communication between the borough and city. She said she has a meeting with new borough manager, Michael Powers, scheduled for today.

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