Barely more than four months into his new job, Mitch Flanagan is finding no lack of business.
Flanagan was hired by Ward County in January to be the county's building inspector and zoning admini- strator, easing some of the workload on county tax equalization director Mike Vendsel. Flanagan started in April.
Prior to coming to Ward County, Flanagan spent six years in South Dakota as a building inspector. Before that, he was a general contractor.
Dave Caldwell/MDN • Mitch Flanagan, Ward County’s zoning administrator and building inspector, has been extremely busy as of late, evaluating flood-damaged structures, among a multitude of responsibilities.
Flanagan is responsible for most of the building permitting process, as well as inspection of a building's actual physical structure. Once the process is complete, Flanagan also issues the certificate for occupancy of the building.
"I make sure it's built right to current standards and codes," Flanagan said Friday, noting that current standards are set by the 2006 international building and residential codes.
Flanagan also handles plat approvals, variances, zone changes, moving permits and several other zoning-related tasks.
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Flanagan noted that the most recent Ward County Planning Commission meeting clocked in at 2 1/2 hours.
"A lot of issues are coming up now with the flooding," Flanagan said. "A lot of people are wanting to outlot their properties and build subdivisions. Special use permits for mobile homes, man camps, the whole gamut."
Flanagan is also the man who inspects flood-damaged structures - along with a state health department representative - to evaluate the viability of the buildings, and if needed condemn them.
"He looks at the sanitary conditions and I look at the structural conditions," Flanagan said. "Through both of us, we have an assessment report. He fills out the back, I fill out the front, and that's the start of the demolition process."
Flanagan said that he is hoping to have the condemnation and abatement process wrapped up by October.
He said that the residential areas below the confluence of the Souris and Des Lacs rivers, down to the Sawyer area, are nearly completed. Some of the more rural homes and farmsteads are still affected by washed-out roads, but some progress is being made. Now, attention is being turned to the mobile homes.
Flanagan noted that the word "condemnation" does not mean automatic demolition. Placarding a structure means that it is time for the property owner to take action of some sort to remedy the situation.
"Are they going to keep it? Are they going to fix it? Are they going to clean it up? Are they going to move them? If not, we have to proceed with the demolition," Flanagan said.
He said the message to the owners is meant to convey that the structures now pose a public threat, and action must be taken.
"We can't leave them, just as they are," Flanagan said. "But there are many, many homes that people have not even come back to. They've locked up the doors, locked up the windows and just left them. And they're in extremely bad condition - they pose a very big threat to human life."
Flanagan said he would like to be able to save as many of these houses as possible.
"I would like to help these people, to guide them through the process," he said. "If they are going to try to save it, then we'll work with them."
Even structural failures can be repaired, Flanagan said, and encourages him to see people getting permits to do so - for which the fees have been waived.
"I'm encouraging that because it tells me they're going to try to save their house," he said.
Unfortunately, many people are under a great deal of stress, have lost a great deal of money and are indecisive about what they will do next.
Despite those facts, the process must continue.
"Beginning (this) week, the ball is going to be in their court," Flanagan said. "They're going to have to make some hard decisions."