Submitted by Stephen Beckman
City of Fernandina Beach Buiding Official
October 28, 2020
[This is the first in a series of articles designed to help readers understand the importance of Florida Building Codes in protecting lives and property. In his first article Beckman introduces his staff and explains their qualifications and roles in the permitting process.]
The mission of the Building Department is to ensure that the health and welfare of the community are protected by enforcement of the building codes. Through review of building design and inspections of the work, we work hand-in-hand with building owners, contractors, and designers to produce work compliant with the current codes. Here in the State of Florida, it is the Florida Building Codes, which are revised on a 3-year cycle.
The Florida Building Code is adopted by State Law in Florida Statute 553. Contracting in Florida is regulated by law in Florida Statute 489. To be a construction contractor in Florida, you must be licensed by the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Regulating construction helps ensure that qualified personnel are the ones doing the work, who are knowledgeable of the codes. Licensure also requires certain fiscal responsibility and insurance minimums.
Building Code plans examiners, inspectors and administrators also require licensure through the DBPR which is regulated by Florida Statute 468. The state has minimum experience requirements as well as technical requirements to obtain licenses in the various areas. Plans examiner’s and inspectors require licenses in building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and fuel gas. There are both residential and commercial licenses. Commercial licensure includes residential. The Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board is responsible for licensing and regulating building code administrators, building code inspectors, and building code plans examiners. The board meets regularly to consider applications for licensure, to review disciplinary cases, and to conduct informal hearings relating to licensure and discipline. The board engages in rulemaking to implement the provisions set forth in its statutes and conducts other general business, as necessary.
Over the years, the board has tightened licensure requirements to ensure the candidates approved have the required experience necessary for each license. Besides hands on experience in the trades, one can gain experience in a trade through a combination of classes and cross training programs with other licensed inspectors. In today’s market, finding these people is proving more and more challenging as these experienced personals are in high demand in the construction industry where there are major labor shortages, and which also tend to pay much higher than government.
Construction tends to be challenging for many reasons: designing within a budget, building in the elements, and coordinating many schedules to name a few. For a project to be successful, many things must come together well, in a manner which flows. There are critical times in the process where schedules are very important. A critical part of this process is the timeliness the quality of inspections.
The City of Fernandina Beach has been positioning itself to provide a Building Department staff with a great deal of experience, and licensed personnel in all the areas so that we can provide high quality reviews and inspections.
Prior to 2019, Fernandina Beach essentially had one multi-licensed inspector, who along with the Building Official, did all the inspections. The city also had one plans examiner, who along with the Building Official, did all the plan reviews. In 2020, our multi-licensed inspector, Edward “Flip” Filipkowski retired. Flip was an inspector with many years of experience and will be missed. Prior to Flip’s retirement, he cross trained BJ Norfleet, spending over 500 documented hours in the field doing inspections.
In 2019, the city hired BJ Norfleet from the maintenance department of the city. BJ worked as an aviation electrician in the military, as well as an electrician and HVAC technician for the city. BJ obtained his mechanical inspector and plans examiner licenses in 2019 and will soon complete his residential cross training with BOAF (Building Officials Association of Florida). The new residential license will allow BJ to do any inspection associated with 1-2 family residential construction (building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical).
In 2020 the Building Department hired Mike Sloper from the maintenance department where Mike spent 17 years working on city buildings. Mike was approved by the board for Commercial Plumbing and Commercial Building, and has obtained provisional licenses for these areas, as well as plans examiner in each area as well. Mike has already passed the technical exams for these licenses and is working to complete the rest of the testing which covers laws and rules of the State.
In the Plan Review Department, Don Kukla has been working with the city for 13 years. Prior to his tenure with the City, Don worked in the Navy where he was on the Naval Construction Force “SEABEES”, as Executive Assistant Construction Manager where he worked with structural and trades. Don was also a Navy Master Instructor as well as heavy equipment operator. Don brings a tremendous amount of experience to the city for plan review.
To round out the inspection services, the city has extended an offer which has been accepted, to Scott Ellis. Scott has served as an electrical inspector for Collier County since 2005 and brings tremendous experience in electrical to the city. Scott also holds licenses in Commercial Plumbing and Commercial Mechanical.
A building department could not operate with review and inspection staff only and relies upon great permitting support at city hall. Leading this is Angela Lester. Angie has been working for the city building department since 2014 and leads and assists with permitting in every area. Angie also is the CRS Coordinator (Community Rating System) and leads the effort to improve our standing with FEMA and educating and working with the community for everything flood related.
Also instrumental to our department and the building community here in the city is Karen Austin. Karen came to us from Nassau County Building department where she spent 15 years and has been with the city in the last 5 years. Karen is extremely knowledgeable and works hard to assist the people of the community in getting their applications submitted and permits processed.
Also, on the “front line” is Ashley Manning. Ashley was promoted to permit technician in 2020, when Harriet Davis took a job with the Code Enforcement department. Ashley has been with the city building department since 2018, is quite knowledgeable and works hard to get permits processed and customer questions answered.
Newly hired in 2020 in the department are Joni Johnson and Ashley Butler. Both Joni and Ashley bring a great deal of experience to our department in working with finances, and other office duties. Joni and Ashley both answer phones and customer questions, process applications, and fulfill public records requests.
The department is headed by myself, Stephen Beckman. I have spent most of my career as a builder and understand the needs of the builder and the codes that apply. I strive to enforce the building codes and local laws and ordinances in a manner that makes us more of a team player with the building community rather than a roadblock. The Department staff are available to ask any building, code or permitting question you may have and will do all we can to make the process as easy and efficient as possible.
The Fernandina Beach Building Department is located on the ground floor of City Hall at 204 Ash Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034. Window service is available between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For questions relating to Building, Electric, Mechanical, Plumbing, or ADA Codes, call (904) 310-3135, or email [email protected] to reach the Building Official/Director, Stephen Beckman.
Thank you Stephen. We appreciate the dedication of you and your team to making the city safer for all of our friends and neighbors.
Stephen thanks for setting the record straight. As Chair of the Historic District Council I want to thank you and the team for the excellent job you have down in helping move the city forward. The collaboration between Building, Planning, Code Enforcement, public safety and the community is critical to protecting our Historic Districts. Your efforts to bring all these parts together is most appreciated.
Thank you for this very informative article. I would really like to see an article about the systems and processes used to manage permitting and inspections. It would be very helpful for the community to better understand time frames.
My husband, Henry Lannon was the Fernandina Beach building & zoning official for 25+ years. Almost 5 Of that he also ran Public Works. He had his Master Plumbing & Electrical license, Building contractor’s, & Pool contractor License. He was certified in The city, county, & state. He also wrote & administered the tests for plumbers & electricians. He ran the office with one secretary for years before adding one more secretary, then a part time inspector, then code enforcement. He even used his license to build an addition to the fire station @ the beach, a building @ the docks, & more. I know things have gotten more complicated, but I still have people come in & tell me that they miss how well & how quickly the office used to be run. More people & bureaucracy, I guess, are necessary to accommodate how things are being done, but also allows for delays for the minutiae of clearing everything with all involved. It would be nice to have fewer people who were more specialized in several aspects of building & zoning instead of only one.
[…] an article written by Mr. Beckman in the Fernandina Observer in October 2020, Mr. Beckman […]