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Salem selectmen make change to speed up process for builders

SALEM — Allowing approved third-party firms to review proposed building plans could be a boon to developers as well as the town’s building inspection department.

Earlier this week, selectmen approved a plan allowing qualified firms to review building plans.

According to Town Manager Keith Hickey, this will speed up the review process for larger developments and free up building inspectors to conduct home inspections in a more timely manner.

“Right now, it takes some larger developers up to one month to have their plans reviewed by a building inspector,” said Hickey.

Hickey and Assistant Town Manager Keith Goodwin proposed a plan that gives developers the option to choose from a field of three re-qualified firms or have a firm of their choice qualified to review the plans.

The developer would have to pay for the outside review on top of the town inspection fee, but Goodwin said he suspected larger developers would be willing to pay extra in order to get their plans reviewed faster.

Selectman Patrick Hargreaves approved of the plan, but said he had some concerns that developers would be able to choose whoever they wanted to review their plans.

“That’s kind of ‘Hey, buddy, I’m going to have you do my work and you are going to correct my stuff,’” he said. Hargreaves suggested that the town be responsible for choosing the firm to review the plans.

Goodwin said the town had considered that method, but decided against it. He said many other communities successfully use the proposed method.

“There are so many entities out there that put their professional name and license on the line for this kind of work,” said Goodwin. “We didn’t want to be in the business of who deciding who succeeds and who fails in the private sector. All the entities have to be pre-qualified by us.”

The town will also review the plans before the final approval. Goodwin also noted that the town will still be conducting all inspections during the construction process.

Building inspectors will also have more time to conduct home inspections, according to Hickey.

While most electrical and building inspections are done within two days, Hickey said there has been an issue with plumbing inspections taking several weeks from the time the initial request comes in.

“We hope this will alleviate some of the problems, but its not going to solve all of the problems,” said Goodwin. “We aren’t going to get the plumbing inspections done in 24 hours, but I’d like to think it will be faster than two weeks.”

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